Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a terrible disease that is decimating our green sea turtle population.

FP is characterized by benign, cauliflower-like tumors that appear on the turtle’s soft tissue. They can form on the flippers- making swimming and diving exponentially more difficult. FP tumors may also form on the eyes or mouth, which severely limit how well a turtle can feed.

While boat, predator, and hook accidents are common enough symptoms for our turtle patients, many of the turtles we admit with these injuries also suffer from FP.

In extreme circumstances, turtles with advanced stage FP are unable to care for themselves in the wild without assistance.

Lucky enough, FP is treatable in many cases, and the Gumbo Limbo Rehabilitation Facility is one of seven facilities in the state equipped to deal with this disease.

That means that we are uniquely suited to ensure our turtle patients are set for a healthy future. We can do our best to heal traumatic injuries after they occur, and also perform preventative healthcare by removing even small FP tumors before they inhibit the turtles ability to thrive.

When a turtle arrives with FP, we remove their tumors and treat their wounds in a quarantined environment to ensure FP does not spread to other turtles. Even the water in a turtle’s tank runs the risk of infection, so careful steps must be taken.

The first turtle with FP was identified in 1938 in the Florida Keys, and the disease has since grown across global green turtle populations. In rare cases, FP may spread to loggerheads in our waters.

While no clear cause has been identified, FP has a strong correlation with polluted warm waters, and may be related to the herpes virus. Many of the FP cases we identify come from shallower bay or lagoon areas where water pollution is stronger.

By keeping our waters clean, we can protect our turtles from FP.

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