Saving turtles one tumor at a time
Following a dose of numbing agent lidocaine, the tumor was removed within minutes. It’s a quick procedure that will have a lasting impact on the young turtle’s life for years to come, and thanks to a new high-powered CO2 laser tool, the hospital can continue efficiently treating and rehabilitating turtles with the disease. The laser was funded in part by a grant awarded by the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is in turn funded by a portion of revenue from Florida’s sea turtle specialty license plates.
“We’re getting better and better all the time as we get different types of equipment, so animals that were certainly dead before now are being given a chance to live. You’ve got to do what you can to save them,” said Mader, owner of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital and the Turtle Hospital’s main vet.
The Turtle Hospital has been rehabilitating sea turtles with fibropapilloma for 30 years and is one of only a handful of facilities in Florida treating the disease, said Bette Zirkelbach, hospital manager. She said fibropapilloma affects more than 50 percent of the green sea turtle population around the Florida Keys and is found worldwide in and around developed islands. The Turtle Hospital has seen an increase in the number and in the severity of cases over the past few years, and surgically removing the tumors is a critical part of treating patients at the Turtle Hospital.
“The CO2 laser is the best tool for this job,” Zirkelbach said. “You can help sea turtles survive by selecting the Florida sea turtle license plate.”
Zirkelbach explained that a portion of the revenue from the plate is distributed to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which redistributes the funding through the competitive Sea Turtle Grant Program to support turtle projects in the areas of research, education and conservation that benefit Florida sea turtles. For more information, visit www.helpingseaturtles.org.