Sea turtles with tumours fill Florida hospital
As the population of green sea turtles rebounds in and around the Florida Keys, cases of fibropapillomatosis have exploded too, filling the corridors of the United States’ oldest rescue and rehab facility, known simply as the Turtle Hospital.
“When I first started here 20 years ago, I would do six to eight of these a month,” says veterinarian Doug Mader, as he injects a local anaesthetic, then cuts off the cauliflower-like growths with a carbon dioxide laser.
“Now we are doing six to eight a week,” he says as the air fills with the smell of saltwater, alcohol wipes and burning flesh.
The young patient writhes on the operating table, kicking its flippers. A team of medical attendants turns it over, revealing an underbelly cluttered with tumours, some as big as golf balls.
This endangered green sea turtle, about two years old and too young for the staff to know yet whether it is male or female, is infected with fibropapillomatosis, a potentially deadly disease caused by a type of herpes virus.
Experts still don’t understand quite how the virus spreads, or what causes it, though some research has pointed to agricultural runoff, pollution and global warming.
Each turtle can require several operations to remove all the tumours, which cover their necks, underbellies, and eyes, blinding them and making it hard for them to find food.
Green sea turtles were first listed as endangered species in 1976, but are now nesting in record numbers — 28,000 nests counted last year in Florida, up from fewer than 500 decades ago.
Albino turtle found on Australia beach
Wildlife volunteers say they were stunned to find an extremely rare albino turtle on a beach in Australia.
The tiny creature was one of 122 hatchlings from a green turtle nest on Castaways Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The volunteers from Coolum and North Shore Coast Care were surveying the nest on Sunday when they found it.
“It was very chipper and just took off into the water as happy as can be,” said group president Linda Warneminde.
Ms Warneminde said typically only one in 1,000 green turtles survived to maturity and experts believed the chances for an albino turtle were even lower.