United States

Sea Turtle Covered in Tumors to Undergo Surgery

"We’re so hopeful," said the manager of the Turtle Hospital, where Charid is being treated

A sea turtle covered with tumors was airlifted from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands to Florida on Saturday to receive treatment.

Named Charid, the 28-pound juvenile green sea turtle was found with fibropapilloma tumors covering her head, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The turtle is named after the two children of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife official who found her in the Virgin Islands. 

Charid arrived at Miami International Airport Saturday morning and was taken to receive treatment at the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital, which has been helping sea turtles for more than 30 years.

Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital, was at the airport to receive Charid and spoke on the turtle's condition.

"She has one good eye," Zirkelbach said. "She is releasable [back into the wild] because they don't have to chase their prey. They just feed on sea grass. We’re so hopeful. You can see she’s moving so she made the trip."

Getting Charid help took some teamwork. Mark Nelson, general manager of American Airlines Virgin Islands, aided in the turtle's transportation.

"I'm a diver so sea life is very important to me," he said. "So when I heard about it I wanted to do whatever I could. And American was behind me all the way."

Fibropapilloma is a virus that affects sea turtles in oceans around the world. The turtles are treated by having the tumors surgically removed. The animals are then nursed back to health for eventual release back into the wild.

"The disease is horrific," Zirkelbach said. "It's really hard to look at, honestly. But environment has a big play in this disease. Warmer water temperatures, water pollution, causes this virus."

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