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TSA, TAMU-K partner to perform surgery on cold-stunned sea turtles

Seven turtles needed the surgery, recovery time is expected to be 4-8 weeks
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Posted at 12:40 PM, Mar 22, 2022

Seven green sea turtles admitted during a cold-stunning in February underwent surgery earlier this month.

The turtles were treated for fibropapilloma tumors needing to be removed.

“Most of these tumors were affecting their eyes, or large enough that it made it difficult for the turtles to swim," said Texas State Aquarium head veterinarian Carrie Ullmer. "So, we wanted to remove those tumors so when they are released, they have the best chance of success.”

A lot of green sea turtles were affected, especially in the area, Ullmer said.

“So, we have to kind of pick and choose our battles," she said. "So we really focus on the tumors that are going to affect their quality of life; their ability to compete with other sea turtles.”

Surgery is simple, Ullmer said. An incision is made on the top layers of skin to remove the tumors.

“The nice thing about turtles — especially when we use the laser to perform surgery — is we can actually leave the incision open, and they’ll heal really nicely from it,” she said.

TSA partnered with the Texas A&M University-Kingsville veterinary tech program for the procedures.

“We can use this experience with them to help reinforce what they learn in lecture, and they get to actually intubate the turtles so they can breathe under anesthesia," she said. "They get the chance to draw blood, and do injections, and they get a chance to do those things they might not get to do during their training.”

The turtles will require between four and eight weeks to recover.