MIAMI (CBSMiami) — From the beaches of St. Croix to a terminal at Miami International Airport, Charid the sea turtle has arrived in the U.S. in a desperate attempt to stay alive.
“An amazing effort by a lot of different agencies and organizations, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Florida Conservation Commission, American Airlines with the flight,” said Betty Zirkelbach with the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital.
The 28-pound juvenile is between 5 and 7 years old, and was found in the Virgin Islands covered in fibropapilloma tumors, caused by polluted water.
“It’s a virus that affects over 50 percent of the green sea turtle population in and around developed islands,” said Zirkelbach.
Wildlife officials are sending him to the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital for treatment.
“Unfortunately on St. Croix, they don’t have the means or equipment to treat this turtle,” Zirkelbach explained. “At the Turtle Hospital, we’ve been treating fibropapilloma virus for over 30 years.”
But there is a chance that Charid won’t make it that far south.
“The first treatment is to go to a human hospital this afternoon where I have an appointment to get a CT scan,” said Zirkelbach. “That’s gonna check the lungs and make sure there’s no internal tumors. If the tumors have internalized, there’s no way to treat them and it would be humanely euthanized.”
But if there are no tumors internally then the turtle would go straight into surgery to start removing the exterior growths concentrated on his face. After surgery, he’ll be nursed back to health and then released back in the wild.
If successful, Charid will be at the hospital for about two years.