Brevard Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center Release Juvenile Turtle ‘Banana’ at Hightower Beach

Banana was released at Hightower Beach Park

After an intense 14-month stay at our Sea Turtle Healing Center, a juvenile green sea turtle with a sweet name will have an even sweeter end to its rehabilitation journey with us. (Brevard Zoo image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – After an intense 14-month stay at our Sea Turtle Healing Center, a juvenile green sea turtle with a sweet name will have an even sweeter end to its rehabilitation journey with us.

Bananas was sent home to the water on Tuesday, May 2, from Hightower Beach Park, 815 Highway A1A 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 our 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 its 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.

Green sea turtle bananas had a large tumor over their eye when they arrived at the Sea Turtle Healing Center.

After an intense 14-month stay at our Sea Turtle Healing Center, a juvenile green sea turtle with a sweet name will have an even sweeter end to its rehabilitation journey with us. (Brevard Zoo image)

We 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.

Bananas 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, our 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 of treatments, Banana’s tumors started to regress and even fall off.”

Our 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 and in honor of the minions from the Despicable Me franchise, Banana leaves our 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.

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