Water pollution could be causing turtles to spread herpes, Brevard Zoo says

Expert shares how weather impacts endangered species

The Brevard Zoo says it does surgery on turtles struggling with herpes.

During a conversation on Talk to Tom, Shanon Gann, the Sea Turtle Program Manager with the Brevard Zoo said two certified zoo vets, along with their veterinary intern are doing all they can to help animals struggling with fibropapillomatosis. Gann said it is often referred to as FP and “it is a herpes virus.”

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Gann said it affects all species of sea turtles, but scientists believe it specifically affects green turtles because of what they eat.

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“They are specialized eaters, and they eat seagrass and algae and a lot of the runoff that we produce on land ends up in their food sources and causes them to become ill and maybe it causes them to express this disease,” Gann said.

She said it’s still not crystal clear how the turtles get it in the first place, but that the Brevard Zoo is working to treat those that contract FP.

Gann said the vets cut off the tumors and will often use larvae and leeches to help with the healing process.

Veterinarian operates on a sea turtle. (Brevard Zoo)

If turtles need more help than they are able to offer on location, Gann said the zoo takes them to the Rockledge Regional Medical Center for CT scans.

Once the turtle receives treatment Gann said the goal is to nurse them back to health and release them back into the wild.

Another major threat Gann said the endangered species is facing is climate change. She said the beaches where they lay their eggs are eroding.

To make matters worse people are also disturbing their habitat.

“A lot of times people in some areas bring in their lounge chairs or their beach tents and they leave them up because they’re going to be there all weekend and they want to stake out their spot. Unfortunately, turtles nest and they get tangled up in those items,” Gann said.

To learn more about sea turtles and how the weather and pollution impact their habitat watch Talk to Tom.

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Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.