Laser Treatment Helps Sea Turtles

Above, Anita Brooks, a vet tech at the Gladys Porter Zoo protects April's eyes from the light of the laser during a treatment to speed her recovery. April's flipper was amputated after being severely damaged and tangled in fishing gear line. Below, Mitch receives a laser treatment on his plastron. His injuries are from predator bites. Brian Thurow photos.

By Teresa Shumaker

The staff at Sea Turtle, Inc. has reduced the healing time by half for several injured sea turtles.
How? With the use of medical low-level laser therapy (LLLT), also called cold therapy, which is a non-invasive medical treatment.
LLLT encourages the cells to create a lot of energy, which in turn speeds up wound recovery, reduces tissue inflammation, and reduces pain. Studies are now showing that sea turtles respond well to LLLT treatments and their recovery time is dramatically reduced.
We have four juvenile Atlantic greens that are undergoing LLLT:
• April was discovered in the month of April suffering injuries from entanglement in fishing line. Her front right flipper was mangled and had to be amputated.
• Mitch and Tint were found in May, both had serious injuries from predator bites.
• Last is Olivia Jr., she was hooked by a fisherman. She had injuries from the hook and entanglement in the line.
Our vet tech, Brian Thurow (along with other staff) has been taking these four turtles to the Gladys Porter Zoo for LLLT treatments twice a week. Brian has said that Tint’s healing has been most remarkable. Tint had severe tissue damage near the front right flipper — now his wounds are almost healed. Brian explained that without laser therapy, those wounds would have taken closer to six months to completely heal.
Reducing healing time is important for many reasons. The first is to reduce the pain and stress on the sea turtle, but equally important is reducing the turtle’s time at our facility. The less time a sea turtle spends around people, the better off it will be for returning to the wild.
“Plus, if you keep them out, they are missing experiencing important developmental stages in the wild,” explained Brian.
A third benefit is economic. The faster STI can heal injured sea turtles, the less money is spent on food, housing, and medicines  — which means our limited budget can stretch farther and aid more turtles.
Because STI has had so much success with LLLT for injured sea turtles, we are now considering purchasing our own laser. STI has limited staff to take the sea turtles on a hour-and-a-half round trip to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, two times a week, which is stressful on the turtles. If we had our own laser, not only would we be dramatically saving in man hours and fuel, we could also perform the laser therapy every other day and speed up the turtles’ recovery even more.

Purchasing a new laser will cost $25,000. If you would like to contribute to our new laser fund, please click on the donate button below, or considered adopting a sea turtle patient! All proceeds from patient adoptions go toward improving our hospital, like purchasing a laser.

Help us buy a laser to heal sea turtles!