The Turtle Hospital Newsletter
The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida Keys        May 2019 - Volume 12, Issue 3
Dear Friend,
Welcome to our monthly newsletter and thank you for your continued support. We hope this letter finds you in good spirits and health. Currently, 53  sea turtles are being cared for at the hospital. Thanks for reading and enjoy our latest newsletter!

About The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies on the generosity of people like you. Donations, memberships and purchases through our online store help ensure the hospital operates at the highest caliber. You can also adopt one of our sea turtles as a great way to support the turtles.

Together we can save sea turtles in the Florida Keys and around the world.
Thank YOU for all of you interest and support!

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Track Mr. T

Mr. T, an adult male loggerhead sea turtle weighing almost 200lbs was released off of  Sombrero Beach in Marathon on May 7th. Mr. T was rehabilitated at the Turtle Hospital and tagged courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory as part of an FWC authorized educational and public outreach project. Research scientists at Mote will be using Mr. T's track as part of a study of adult male sea turtles with their goal being to learn about the behavior, habitat, home range and migratory pathways of adult males. Mr. T was found with a fishing hook in his mouth and floating due to a tear in his lung. The fishing hook was removed and the lung tear was repaired using Mr. T's own blood to do a patch. You can follow this link if you would like to track Mt. T.

We are so excited to have one of the turtles rehabilitated at our hospital participating in this study. Male sea turtles do not return to land after they leave the beach as hatchlings, unless they are injured or sick. Therefore, they are a more elusive group to study.

Incredible Transformations

Gwen was a complete FP success, returning to her ocean home tumor free in 2016

Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a debilitating disease that affects sea turtles in Florida and many other parts of the world. Turtles with FP have external tumors that may grow so large as to hamper swimming, vision, feeding, and potential escape from predators which can lead to severe emaciation and eventual death. This mysterious disease has now been observed in all major oceans. Caused by a herpesvirus, this is the most significant infectious disease affecting sea turtle populations worldwide. Since the mid-1980s, FP has been observed with increased frequency. The disease has been documented in most sea turtle species but is most common and severe in greens. The prevalence of the disease is associated with heavily polluted coastal areas, areas of high human density, agricultural runoff, and/or biotoxin-producing algae.

Dr. Brooke looks for any place a tumor may be hiding

The Turtle Hospital is one of 6 facilities in Florida that treat sea turtles with this debilitating disease. Turtles admitted with tumors are given a full exam and each tumor's size and location are documented. Radiographs and CT scans are also taken to help determine the possibility of internal tumors and blood work helps determine to overall state of the turtle. Once the turtle is strong enough for surgery the process of removing the tumors begins. One of the first surgeries many of our patients receive is to remove tumors from their eyes. Our turtle's eyes are treated by veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Lorraine Karpinski.

Dr. K examining the eyes after tumor removal

Once the turtles are able to see again we often observe dramatic changes in their behavior such as increased swimming and appetite. After tumors are removed the eyes of the turtles begin to receive 5-FU eye drops twice a day that help to decrease any tumor regrowth. Next the tumors growing on the body will be removed. Depending on the amount of tumors, the turtle could undergo multiple surgeries before becoming tumor free. We are limited on the amount of time a sea turtle can safely stay under anesthesia but we also cannot typically take all of the sea turtle's tumors off at once because it would be too difficult for them to recover since many of these turtles are literally covered in tumors. 

Dr. Terry removes tumors from a juvenile green patient

Once the turtles are tumor free, they spend roughly another year at the hospital. This allows us to carefully monitor for tumor regrowth and gives the sea turtles time to build up a resistance against this virus before returning back to the ocean.  

Barney was successfully released in 2016

The turtles admitted to our hospital with tumors are truly some of the most amazing transformations that happen here and none of it would be possible without you. When you donate, adopt a turtle, become a member, pay admission to visit the hospital or make purchases in our gift shop or online store, you provide the funding needed to give these turtles the highest quality of care and treatment available. It is truly the generosity and compassion of people like you that will carry this hospital into the future and help to preserve the vitality of our oceans by insuring the survival of the sea turtle population.

Watch for Turtles!

Ahh......summertime in the keys! The crystal clear waters and warm weather send locals and tourists alike looking for an escape to the ocean. The Florida Keys are home to an array of uninhabited islands, sandbars, coral reefs and hot fishing spots attracting all different kinds of boater enthusiasts. More people on the water, leads to more phone calls reporting sick and injured sea turtles to the hospital. However more boats on the water, means an increase in hull and propeller strikes.   According to the Sea Turtle Stranding Network in Florida, boat strikes have tripled in the past 40 years.  study out of Duke University  correlated this increase in sea turtle collisions with the rapid increase in Florida boat registrations. 

Sadly The Turtle Hospital has received reports of dead or injured sea turtles almost everyday during the past few weeks. Most of these were boat strikes.  Sea turtles can swim at bursts of speeds up to 25 miles per hour, but are often no match for the oncoming boat. Sick and injured sea turtles float and are unable to dive down to escape an imminent boat hit.  Boat strikes are especially common during nesting season when thousands of turtles come near shore to breed and lay eggs.

This turtle was reported to us but unfortunately did not survive due to the severe nature of these propeller strikes.

  Thankfully, turtle rehabilitation facilities like The Turtle Hospital are equipped to treat boat strikes if they're reported quickly enough. If you are ever boating and strike an animal or see an animal in trouble, it's best to report it immediately! The sooner responders arrive to the scene, the better chance the animal has at survival. 

When boating remember to always follow channel markers. Cutting through shallow areas like sea grass beds is detrimental to this delicate environment as well as your boat! Sea grass beds are protected, and unlike the grass on your lawn, sea grass takes years to fully regrow. Green sea turtles are herbivores, typically spending much of their time feeding in these shallow areas, leaving them more susceptible to boat hits. Besides, you don't want to ruin your prop or bottom paint by running aground!
Remember, sea turtles have to come to the surface to breathe so when boating keep your eyes open and stay alert. Wearing polarized sunglasses and following the speed limit is a great way to ensure you're able to spot a sea turtle before ending up on top of him.

 If you do see an injured or floating turtle, please call FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC or The Turtle Hospital stranding line at (305) 481-7669. Reporting injured turtles is the only way we can rescue them. We do not patrol, we rely on YOU to know what to look for and call us.
Have a fun and SAFE summer!

Returned Home
 Timmy was admitted to the hospital in January 2018 to be treated for fibropapilloma tumors. Once Timmy became tumor free and developed a resistance against the virus he was able to be returned to his ocean home on May 1st.

As mentioned in our first article, Mr. T returned to his ocean home on May 7 as part of a public sea turtle release on Sombrero Beach.

On May 8th, 
Venus, Jimmy,  Candide,  Quest,  Saffron, Solstice,  Chicken Nugget,Wasabi, Queen B & Cool Hand Luke  were driven north for release by Florida Fish and Wildlife. These turtles were transferred to us from facilities in northern Florida and were therefore returned to waters closer to where they were rescued. These were all juvenile green sea turtles treated at the hospital for various ailments including FP, infections and wounds.

Sky Woman was admitted to the hospital in November of 2018. She had fishing line so tightly wrapped around her neck it had cut into her trachea. She also had some FP tumors and evidence of an older boat strike. Luckily she was able to make a full recovery at our facility and was released on May 22.

Adopt or Become a Member

Thanks to your great support, we are able to give these endangered sea turtles the care in which they desperately need. By becoming a member or adopting a sea turtle for a $35.00 fee, you can help us achieve even more. Visit links below to learn more about these programs.

Montel is one of our adoptable sea turtles 

and a permanent member of our Turtle Hospital family. He is a green sea turtle and has lived here since 2001. Montel was found entangled causing him to lose his left front flipper. Additionally, he had been attacked by a shark and hit by a boat. Montel has also lost an eye due to fibropapilloma tumors. Due to all of these injuries Montel would not longer be able to survive in the wild and is a non-releasable sea turtle.

We hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter!

Please visit our website, for more stories, news and updates about the turtles. Thank you again for your support and interest, we cannot do this without you!
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Additional Resources

Seafood Watch