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Brevard Zoo veterinarian Dr. Kyle Donnelly works on Loggerhead Marinelife Center patient Buoy.

Our Sea Turtle Healing Center recently lent a flipper to another rehabilitation facility looking for a specialized treatment for one of their sea turtle patients.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center brought juvenile green sea turtle Buoy to our Healing Center for their second round of electrochemotherapy, a treatment for fibropapillomatosis or FP. This common and debilitating disease causes external and internal tumors to grow all over a sea turtle’s body.

Dr. Kyle Donnelly (left) and Dr. Heather Barron.

Buoy first arrived at Loggerhead in the fall with a heavy load of these tumors on their body. Although there is no cure for FP, tumors can be surgically removed. Buoy has undergone several removal surgeries, but the tumors continued returning, according to Dr. Heather Barron, Loggerhead’s Chief Science Officer and veterinarian.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Sea Turtle Grants Program, our Healing Center purchased an electroporator last year as an alternative treatment to traditional surgery for FP patients. The device is designed to deliver electrotherapy into these tumors. Electrotherapy makes the tumors more permeable, allowing them to absorb even more chemotherapy and eventually causing the tumors to become necrotic and fall off. Although electroporation is mostly used as a veterinary treatment in domestic animals such as cats and dogs, it is fairly new to sea turtles.

After Buoy’s initial treatment at our Healing Center, many of their tumors necrosed. This round of treatment is intended to continue to clear Buoy of tumors, and the hope is that Buoy won’t need an additional treatment afterward.

This sea turtle doesn’t have any internal FP tumors, Dr. Barron said, so they are a good candidate for an eventual release.

We’re so happy to have played a part in Buoy’s rehabilitation journey, and we look forward to celebrating their release in the near future!