Gumbo Limbo’s rehabilitation facility is one of only six facilities in Florida that accepts sea turtle patients with fibropapilloma tumors. FP is evident by the presence of benign, cauliflower-like tumors found on the soft tissue of sea turtles. Turtles with tumors on their flippers often have trouble swimming and diving. Sometimes these tumors are present in or around a turtle’s mouth and eyes and can limit the turtle’s ability to find food. External tumors are removed surgically. In severe cases, tumors are found internally. Sadly, these tumors cannot be removed and ultimately lead to death.
FP was first reported in 1938 in a green turtle caught in the Florida Keys. Since then, the disease has grown to affect green sea turtle populations with global distribution. Though not commonly seen in other species, FP has been reported in loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, and Olive ridleys. Research has linked FP to strains of the herpes virus. FP has also been shown to have a strong correlation to polluted waters and is most often reported in warmer regions of the world. Many of the FP turtles that we treat in our rehab center come from bay and lagoon areas, where water quality is poor. These habitats are located near densely populated areas and are subject to increased pollution and nutrient runoff (from things like fertilizers, pesticides, and pet waste).