What happened in Key West didn’t stay in Key West for one sea turtle now recovering from a herpes-like virus.
Shelly Krueger, a Florida Sea Grant agent who works with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Monroe County, said she was leading a group of students in the Florida Keys when they spotted the sea turtle suffering from a type of herpes that is usually contracted in warm water.
“We knew he had the fibropapillomatosis virus because it’s common in sea turtles that are stranded,” she said. “We knew when we saw tumors over the eyes, it would only get worse.”
Krueger, along with the help of five students, brought the turtle onboard of their boat.
It was minutes later that the turtle was riding along in a turtle ambulance to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.
IFAS, named after the UF research facility, underwent his surgery Friday and is still in recovery from the life-threatening disease, which can cause blindness.
“IFAS had a really strong heartbeat,” Krueger said. “They’ve removed the tumors from his eyes, and he’s still got some on his neck that they plan to remove.”
Krueger said she hopes to raise enough money to place a tracking system on IFAS to see how he fares once he is released back into the Keys.
Although they haven’t begun to plan how to secure the money, Krueger said they still have a year, as IFAS will remain in the hospital for turtle rehab.
Kelly O’Hara, a UF wildlife ecology and conservation sophomore, said she’s concerned for IFAS.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen animals develop weird ailments, and it’s probably due to human activity and pollution,” the 20-year-old said. “I think in the long run, we need to take better care of our surroundings because that’s what these animals call home.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 11/12/2014]