A new FP bibliography, plus the latest Masha Kai tracking map (November 8, 2009)

November 8th, 2009  

The latest Fibropapilloma Bibliography

It’s been a while since we last posted a Fibropapilloma Bibliography. I have mixed feelings about this.

We put Turtle Trax online for two reasons. One was to celebrate the beauty and wonder of sea turtles, but especially the Hawaiian green turtle, or honu. The second was to raise awareness of their struggle with the debilitating and often deadly tumor disease, fibropapillomatosis, or FP.

When we started in 1995, FP looked like it could well be the end of the line for green turtles, and not just in Hawaii but throughout the world. No one knew the origins of the disease, or how it spread, or indeed how it could erupt into a pandemic simultaneously in discrete locations. For example, to this day nobody can explain how FP became an epidemic in Hawaii and Florida at the same time, since there is literally no contact between these two turtle populations.

Faced with the possibility of losing the green turtle, government agencies and conservation groups all over the world started looking into the problem. Quite a lot of research was conducted. Once the results began to become available, the need for an FP bibliography was obvious. In those days, there were frequent additions and updates. Then the Good News arrived: FP was not always terminal, and many turtles recovered on their own. FP research activity subsequently slowed. It’s never stopped, but once the threat of extinction was removed, so was the urgency to understand FP, hence the (much) longer intervals between bibliography postings—and my ambivalence.

Obviously I am happy that FP is not an extinction threat. In fact, at Honokowai now you would be hard pressed to identify a honu with FP. 15 years ago, it was easy. All you had to do was find a turtle—they all had FP. Not any more.

Kimo (U 362) in 1993

Kimo (U 362) at The Rock in 1993. At the time, Kimo had one of the worst cases of FP we had seen.

Click image to enlarge

Kimo in 2004

11 years later, Kimo’s tumors had disappeared with almost no trace. She is the poster honu for FP recovery.

Click image to enlarge

On the other hand, FP is still out there. Sure the Honokowai ohana has recovered and the disease has moved on—but not that far. Just a few kilometers up the coast, around Napili, FP is still common. Honu are still suffering and dying from its effects. Yes, FP will pass from this ohana too, but not before a lot of turtles have been affected. This is why it saddens me that I don’t have to post the FP bibliography as often as we once did. It reflects the fact that there simply isn’t as much research happening as there once was. The shift away from FP research is justifiable and understandable, but I still am pained whenever I see a turtle with tumors.

All of which is a long introduction to the latest FP bibliography. We present two formats: the Murakawa-Balazs bibliography in traditional format, organized by author (also offered as a PDF version for download), and our own version, organized by source. The latter arose from our own research efforts, and is meant to minimize the effort needed to fetch material from library shelves.

As always, we claim full responsibility for errors, and would appreciate it if you would tell us if you discover any.

Masha Kai, as of October 27, 2009

Tracking map for Masha Kai as of Oct 27 09

Tracking map for Masha Kai as of Oct 27 09

Masha Kai still remains close to the Nohonani, as expected. Most of the data points are clustered together close to where she was released. There are two exceptions, one to the north and one to the south. What they mean, if anything, is anyone’s guess. As we move into winter (yes, there is a winter in Hawaii) we might see some change in her behaviour. The really interesting questions are: will she make a nesting migration in the spring, and if so, where? Watch this space.

Meanwhile, if you are staying at any of the West Maui condos between Honokowai Park and Pohaku Park (S-Turns), remember that you have a chance of spotting Masha Kai. She’s easily recognized by the transmitter and antenna mounted at the top of her shell. If you see her, we’d love to know about it.

Background of tracking Masha Kai

Masha Kai is a female honu who was captured, given a satellite tag, and released at Honokowai, West Maui, on August 21, 2009. The video below is re-posted to provide you with some background information. If you want more on this story, read my last post from Maui for 2009.

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