- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

MARINELAND, Fla. (AP) - It must have been disorienting for the patient - more than 200 people, almost as many cameras and phones snapping pictures, after a ride in a big plastic box inside a Jeep.

This, after nearly six months in the hospital with anemia and following a series of laser surgeries to remove several large tumors.

But finally, Cisco Kid, a juvenile green sea turtle, was done with the selfies and made-for-Facebook photos on June 20 and the turtle’s vet, Brooke Burkhalter, carried it through the throng and into the Atlantic Ocean.

In Burkhalter’s hands, the Kid frantically paddled the air long before it paddled the waves - and then it was free. The crowd cheered.

Jessica Long, a spokeswoman for the Whitney Laboratory in Marineland, is hoping the Kid will stay well because, even though science gave it a chance to escape a serious disease with an alphabet soup of a name, the rest is up to nature.

“It could come back,” she said. “If the immune system of the turtle is compromised, it could come back again.”

The sea turtle was the first that the staff of the University of Florida Whitney Lab Sea Turtle Hospital in Marineland has ever released after treatment for fibropapillomatosis, a disease in sea turtles that’s similar to herpes in humans.

Cisco Kid was found stranded on Hammock Beach in Palm Coast and brought to the turtle hospital in January, according to a news release.

The disease is responsible for up to 20 percent of discovered green sea turtle strandings and deaths, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The disease causes tumors on the outside of turtles’ bodies that can grow big enough to prevent the animals from swimming, feeding and functioning.

Cisco Kid was healthy enough for surgery using a carbon dioxide laser, the most effective way to remove the tumors because turtles hurt less, bleed less and recover more quickly, according to the news release.

If Long and Whitney Lab staff get their way, they’ll one day be able to monitor how turtles like the Cisco Kid - whose sex is undetermined despite its somewhat masculine moniker - do when released back into their native waters.

“We are hoping for a cure,” she said. And, “We’re hoping for satellite tracking.”

Meanwhile, Cisco Kid had a nice sendoff in the rear view.

“Good Bye Cisco Kid,” read a poster that Whitney sea turtle program coordinator Catherine Eastman and her son Ranier Eastman made together.

Many in the crowd of people who made the trip to watch the release off the beach near Marineland had signed it “through fingerprints and sunscreen,” Catherine Eastman said.

Another well-wisher, Ormond Beach resident Jenni Cassella, didn’t have a sign but she did have a cell phone to take video and she wore a green T-shirt with the image of a sea turtle on it.

A Turtle Patrol volunteer in Volusia, Cassella, said she suggests people turn out for releases and adopt a nest, like she did.

“I try to get here whenever I can,” she said.

___

Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, https://www.news-journalonline.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide