Volunteers, Researchers Making Progress Fighting Herpes-Like Virus Threatening Sea Turtles - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Taking a journey through local outdoor adventures

Volunteers, Researchers Making Progress Fighting Herpes-Like Virus Threatening Sea Turtles

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Progress Made Fighting Deadly Virus Threatening Sea Turtles

    Researchers are making progress in the fight against a deadly virus now found on green sea turtles along the Texas Gulf Coast. (Published Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017)

    Researchers are making progress in the fight against a deadly virus now found on green sea turtles along the Texas Gulf Coast.

    "We had a recent breakthrough where we were actually able to grow the virus in laboratories," said Thierry Work, a wildlife disease specialist in Hawaii. "So that's a step in the right direction."

    The FP virus, or fibropapillomatosis, is a tumor disease that affects green sea turtles around the world, most notably in Florida and Hawaii - and now Texas.

    "It is definitely cancer in the turtles and it's associated with this herpes virus," said Work. "We know from, like other human diseases, that there are other herpes viruses that can cause tumors in humans."

    In conjunction with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Honolulu, Work is one of only a few researchers trying to learn more about the disease including what causes it and how the virus spreads.

    "It's a chicken and egg kind of situation," said Work. "It's appealing to say that pollution might be promoting this. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. But one also has to consider animal behavior, maybe tumored animals just happen to hang out where things are polluted."

    At the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas, staff and volunteers are caring for 30 green sea turtles found with the disease on Mustang Island.

    "It's becoming more and more common," said ARK program coordinator Alicia Walker. "We have 30 turtles here, and most of these, all of these, came in this year. So, it's definitely increasing."

    Turtles that have the virus are found with tumors that can cover their bodies, even their eyes.

    "Definitely the ones in the eyes are the ones most difficult for them because it hinders their ability to see predators and find food," said Walker.

    Virus Threatens Endangered Sea Turtles Along Texas Gulf Coast

    [DFW] Virus Threatens Endangered Sea Turtles Along Texas Gulf Coast

    A strange virus is attacking endangered sea turtles along the Texas Gulf Coast, leaving some unable to see and eat and putting them at risk of starving to death.

    (Published Tuesday, May 23, 2017)

    Unable to see well enough to feed, the turtles can starve to death.

    "It's upsetting," said ARK's founder, Tony Amos. "But this may be one of nature's things, we haven't blamed humankind for this yet."

    The tumors can be surgically removed, but the process can take months before the affected turtles are released in the Gulf.

    "I have gotten a little teary eyed at some of these releases, especially you know with some of the FP turtles," said Walker. "It's just so special, and you worry about their future but you're just thankful that they get to be free."

    EDITORS NOTE: Tony Amos was battling cancer when Kevin Cokely interviewed him in July, and he passed away in September, only a few days after Hurricane Harvery slammed into Mustang Island. The animals there all survived, but the Amos Rehabilitation Keep suffered significant damage, and volunteers are now helping to rebuild the center.

    More: Amos Rehabilitation Keep: On Facebook | Website
    Make a donation to ARK: Friends of the ARK website

    Hurricane Harvey Damages ARK Facility

    [DFW] Hurricane Harvey Damages ARK Facility

    Statement from the Amos Rehabilitation Keep following damage done by Hurricane Harvey:

    "In the hours leading up to the storm, the ARK secured as much equipment as possible but devoted most of its resources into evacuating over 40 birds and securing 60 sea turtles for the storm. Due to careful planning and quick decisions, all of the animals of the ARK survived the hurricane, however, the facility and the equipment of the ARK sustained extensive damage from the storm. Our bird hospital which stored most of our equipment was inundated with a foot of water. The roof was also damaged and leaked rainwater in several locations. Eight of our bird enclosures and a flight cage were destroyed. Much of our equipment was also damaged such as refrigerators, scales, life support, and medical supplies. All of our plumbing has to be replaced and much of our electrical needs work too. We are rebuilding but it is a slow process. People can help by donating to the Friends of the ARK website."

    (Published Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017)

    Get the latest from NBC DFW anywhere, anytime

    • Download the App

      Available for IOS and Android