Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center Releases Sea Turtle ‘Banana’ After 14-Month Rehab Journey
By Space Coast Daily // May 3, 2023
Banana released at Hightower Beach Park in Satellite Beach
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – After an intense 14-month stay at the Brevard Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center, a juvenile green sea turtle ‘Banana’ was sent home to the water on Tuesday after completing its rehab journey.
Banana was released at Hightower Beach Park in Satellite Beach.
Banana was found floating in the Indian River Lagoon near the Main Street Boat Ramp in Sebastian in March 2022. When Banana arrived at the Healing Center, the sea turtle was extremely thin, and covered in organisms, including leeches and fibropapilomatosis (FP) tumors.
FP is a virus that causes external and internal tumors to grow all over a turtle’s body. Depending on their location and size, these tumors can affect organs, impede a sea turtle’s ability to swim, lower their ability to fight off parasites, and more.
In Banana’s case, a golf ball sized tumor was covering their left eye and impeding their vision – in addition to a number of tumors throughout the outside of their body.
Brevard Zoo sought the help of Dr. Matthew Fife, an Orlando based veterinary ophthalmologist, to remove the tumor over Banana’s eye.
Unfortunately, Banana’s bleeding condition along with the blood vessels in the eye made it difficult to stop the bleeding from the surgical site. Banana’s eye was removed to successfully stop the bleeding.
“Sea turtles can live a long, normal life with one eye, and this does not stop them from being releasable,” said Healing Center coordinator and veterinary nurse Jess Patterson.
Once Banana was ready health-wise, they began to undergo the process of cutting off the FP tumors using a CO2 laser.
Banana proved to be a difficult case, however, as the sea turtle had an issue that affected the way their blood clots, so they would lose more blood than the average patient. Our team had to nurse Banana back out of anemia after each surgery, a process that could take months. There were several surgeries as only small patches of tumors could be removed at a time.
For Banana’s last FP tumor area, the team decided to use an innovative treatment called electrochemotherapy. This treatment uses an electroporator to deliver electrotherapy into tumors, making them more permeable and better able to absorb chemotherapy.
“Electrochemotherapy worked wonderfully for Banana,” Jess said. “After a couple treatments, Banana’s tumors started to regress and even fall off.”
The Brevard Zoo Healing Center team will remember Banana as being a skeptical turtle. If Banana spotted a team member, they would keep their one good eye on them – even if they were enjoying enrichments.
Named after National Banana Day (the day of their arrival) and in honor of the minions from the Despicable Me franchise, Banana leaves the Healing Center with a variety of nicknames: Banana Nut, Nanners, Nan, etc. Fans of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” will be pleased to know this sea turtle’s name was spelled out many, many times to that song’s tune.
“We appreciate everyone who helped make Banana’s recovery possible, from Dr. Fife to supporters of our Healing Center. We look forward to seeing you at Banana’s release – or another in the future,” said Brevard Zoo in a statement.