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Zoo News Blog

Sea Turtle Surgery Success

Merida pictured here for a pre-surgery exam with Dr. Kendra.

In case you missed this week’s Facebook Live, Merida the green sea turtle’s surgery was a success! Three hours and 50 fibropapilloma (FP) tumors later, Merida is recovering back in Galveston with our partners Texas A&M’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research facility. This juvenile green sea turtle has been through quite a journey since December of last year. She was found stranded on the coast of Galveston around Christmas and was part of a cold stunned event. Sea turtles are ectothermic and rely on heat from their environment to maintain their body temperatures. During the winter months, sea turtles are susceptible to being “cold stunned,” which means they become lethargic and are unable to swim when water temperatures drop rapidly. Many of these turtles will suffer from pneumonia and other medical conditions.

Merida pictured here with a view of her body with FP tumors removed post-surgery.

In addition to being cold stunned, Merida also had marked eye injuries – to the point where our veterinary team wasn’t sure if she had them. It was assumed that birds had pecked at her eyes. Our team consulted with an ophthalmologist, and it was determined that she had nasty fungal infections and with the treatment they recommended, her eyes now appear normal and both have close to normal vision – a feat that we still cannot believe!

Merida pictured here recovering post-surgery.

Merida also had frostbite that led to bone infections and her shell is gradually healing from the bone infections with treatment recommended by our veterinarians. And now back to the fibropapilloma tumors… this is a very common problem in this species of turtle. The tumors are caused by a herpes virus – similar to how humans can get cold sores. They do not cause problems unless they are large or are in locations that are causing issues. Merida had many very large tumors mostly growing on her flippers and these were successfully removed during this week’s surgery by Dr. Kendra, one of our staff veterinarians. As she recovers down in Galveston, she should hopefully be cleared for release back into the wild in a few weeks.

People are urged to call 1-866-TURTLE-5 if they find or accidentally catch a sea turtle so that an expert can assess the turtle and provide care if needed. 

Simply by choosing reusable shopping bags and water bottles, instead of single-use plastic items, and eliminating the use of plastic straws, people can help keep oceans and waterways clear of plastic pollution, maintaining a clean space for sea turtles to live.