Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a disease found in sea turtles all over the world and one that we are increasingly dealing with here in our Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. It is predominantly found in Green Turtles, although it has been recorded in other species too.
FP is evident by the presence of benign tumours on the soft tissues of the turtle. They can be found mostly around the shoulders, flippers, neck and tail but also occur in the eyes and mouth. Tumours can also develop internally. It is clear that FP tumours, although benign, can be extremely debilitating and even fatal for the affected turtle. External tumours create problems with ease of movement, sight and ability to eat. Internal tumours however, cause problems with the internal organs and functionality of body systems.
FP is a considerable threat to the future of Green Turtle populations globally and research suggests the causative factor to be biological and chemical contaminants linked to increased human activity and resulting in the pollution of the sea grass beds that Green Turtles rely on for foraging grounds.
There is some good news though, turtles with external tumours can undergo surgery to remove the tumours. Research suggests that this can lead to the regression of the herpes virus thought to cause the tumours and enable the turtle to fully recover from the disease.
One such lucky turtle is Sheldon, who arrived with multiple FP tumours around the neck, shoulders, flippers and eyes. After 3 surgeries, our local vet Dr. Faraj, was successful in removing all the external tumours, even those found in Sheldon’s eyes.
Sheldon is otherwise a very strong and healthy turtle and recovered well from treatment. We were able to tag and release Sheldon this week and hope that this turtle will go on to live a long and healthy life in the open ocean, one day reaching breeding age and contributing to the future survival of this endangered species.