News Releases

School of Veterinary Medicine finds new disease in green turtles

For Release Upon Receipt - April 22, 2008

St. Augustine

The School of Veterinary Medicine finds new disease in turtles.

The University of West Indies (UWI), School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) has recently discovered a new disease affecting the green turtle (Chelonia Mydas) called fibropapillomatosis (FP), essentially a form of cancer caused by a virus. The SVM discovered this new disease after performing a post-mortem examination on a dead green turtle sent to them by the Trinidad and Tobago Wildlife Section. The new disease gives some indication of the factors that may be adversely affecting the Trinidad and Tobago waters, i.e. chemical pollutants, toxic algae and climate change.

Fibropapillomatosis is the causes of much suffering and death in sea turtles. The presence of FP in turtles can also be an early warning system that our seas are polluted and that environmental changes are affecting the ability of wild animals to resist infectious diseases.

FP has been reported from all species of sea-turtles except the leatherback (Dermchelys coriacea), although the green turtle appears to be most commonly affected. Although much of the FP research has been done in the USA, studies have also been reported in other parts of the world. The Costa Rica Santoro report emphasised the need for more involvement by persons living in the West Indies since “there is little information about… pathological findings in free-ranging Caribbean green turtles”.

The SVM hopes to rectify this issue by encouraging locals to look out for symptoms of FP and other diseases that may be threatening the health or survival of our turtles. Members of the public, naturalists, fisherman, yachtsmen and others are urged to report to the SVM if they observe any turtle, alive or dead that may have this disease.

For further information, please contact Professor John E. Cooper at 645 2640 Ext. 4213.


  • Prof. John E. Cooper

  • Faculty/Department

    Faculty of Medical Sciences
    School of Veterinary Medicine

  • Tel.: 645 2640 Ext. 4213
  • Email: