Texas State Aquarium Collaborates with Texas A&M University-Kingsville to Perform Critical Surgery on Rescued Endangered Sea Turtles

March 21, 2022

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) has partnered with the Veterinary Technology Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) to perform surgery on several endangered green sea turtles that came in during February’s cold-stunning event.

On Feb. 4 and 5 of 2022, the Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue team admitted 80 cold-stunned green sea turtles that were found in the shallow bay systems on the Laguna Madre. After just a couple of days, the cold-stunned sea turtles gradually recovered and achieved a healthy body temperature. By February 9, 73 of the 80 sea turtles were released into the ocean. The remaining sea turtles stayed at TSA’s Wildlife Rescue Center to be treated for other health conditions, including fibropapilloma lesions.

Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a disease caused by a type of herpes virus that is transmitted between sea turtles and is prevalent in the green sea turtle species. FP causes tumors internally and externally and can interfere with basic functions such as swimming, feeding, and vision. Five of the remaining cold-stunned sea turtles had several tumors that interfered with basic functions, mainly because of their impact on the turtles’ vision. The tumors needed to be removed before the turtles are cleared for release.

On Wednesday, March 9th, 2022, the TSA Animal Health Team transported the five green sea turtles to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Veterinary Technology teaching facility. The TAMUK faculty and students assisted the TSA’s Animal Health team with removing the most limiting tumors from the turtles’ bodies. The TSA’s Animal Health team utilized TAMUK’S surgical laser, which focuses light sources to create skin incisions. Using this technology, the tumors can be removed with much less bleeding than is seen with traditional surgical techniques.

“Collaboration between Texas State Aquarium and Texas A&M University-Kingsville allows us to offer TAMUK’s veterinary technology students valuable hands-on experience with wild animals,” said Dr. Carrie Ullmer, head Veterinarian at the Texas State Aquarium, “at the same time, our patients benefit from the state-of-the-art care we can provide together. The students use these opportunities to apply all the knowledge they’ve learned in their studies, and we truly enjoy contributing to their education.”

All mobility-limiting FP tumors were successfully removed from the five green sea turtles, and they are now healing at the TSA’s Wildlife Rescue Center.

“We have a great relationship with the Texas State Aquarium,” said Christine Hoskinson, MS, LVT, Assistant Director for the Veterinary Technology Program, “It is great for our students to meet other veterinary staff, as well as work with a new species that they do not get to usually work with.” 


B-Roll Video: https://bit.ly/3riv95N

Credit: Texas State Aquarium

Press Photos: https://bit.ly/3AQGXPN

Credit: Texas State Aquarium



The Texas State Aquarium (TSA), the Official Aquarium of the State of Texas, is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) institution that is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its mission is to engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas and support wildlife conservation. TSA, the largest Aquarium in Texas, cares for over 4,000 animals and has been named the #5 Aquarium in North America by USA Today. Learn more at texasstateaquarium.org.

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