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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74 Responses to “A new FP bibliography, plus the latest Masha Kai tracking map (November 8, 2009)”

  1. Peter on April 9th, 2010 3:33 am

    Hi, thanks for caring about the turtle.

    This is not an uncommon problem. For some reason, the turtle has become full of trapped gas and will be unable to dive until the gas is released. I can’t tell you why; you will need a vet or someone experienced with turtles who can diagnose the reason. Many times the problem is an intestinal blockage that can removed, but there are other possibilities.

    I’m not sure where you are but in most jurisdictions, sea turtles are protected animals. There should be an authority you can contact for further help. Good luck and thanks again for caring for the turtle.

  2. Turtle lover on April 13th, 2010 3:21 am

    I love turtles and they are my fav animal and thanks so much for posting this website!!!! However it would be great if you put facts about turtles on for future reference too! Thanks everyone!

  3. waka flocka on April 16th, 2010 5:15 am

    we need to help the turtles!!!!!! they deserve to live
    if anyone has any info on turtles email me

  4. Anonymous on April 17th, 2010 11:08 am

    Hi,l am in love with this site! I have a turtle myself, his name is shelldon
    (his name is spelled like that).

  5. Kate on April 22nd, 2010 2:44 pm


  6. loopy loo on April 28th, 2010 4:55 am

    hi i think that this website is amazing but you should include some amazing facts about sea turtles but apart from that i love it and i love you coz u just helped me get an A plus on my prodject lol xx

  7. Alexandra on April 28th, 2010 9:57 pm

    Aloha from the mainland-

    I am a sea turtle lover as well, and was very happy to find your book. My husband and I have been coming to Maui regularly since 2003, and we (or at least I) see turtles every time we come. My family thinks I am some sort of turtle magnet since I almost always see a turtle or six when I go snorkeling, but I think it is just my patience. (The turtle keeper at the Maui Ocean Center, however, thinks that they might be my ancestors coming to check up on me.)

    My best luck in finding turtles come at Napili. In 2008, I was swarmed by a group of turtles from behind who continued to swim with me as I just watched. Last December I was very fortunate to spend two hours in the water with a group of turtles, one of whom was very content to munch on algae and let me take photos of her. Perhaps we could meet someday and I could share those pictures with you. My husband and I will be on Maui in June, although we are staying in Wailea since we have always gone to the west side.

    My love of turtles, other animals, and conservation bent have led me to pursue ways to work with these wonderful creatures. I might become a vet tech, but have not been able to get in contact with any turtle rehabilitation facilities in Hawaii. Do you know of any?

    My other option is to go into the world of academia, and pursue a PhD so I can provide whatever information is most useful to scientists, conservationists, and enthusiasts. Do you know of any “turtle-ologists” at the U of H or elsewhere? I have an MS in epidemiology that might finally be put to good use in providing population data about turtles. I believe the University of California at Davis is starting a Wildlife Epidemiology program, but it seems silly to research turtles at a land-locked university.

    Mahalo for helping the turtles. I hope I can oneday help them too.


  8. pacaso on April 30th, 2010 12:56 pm

    hey this website is awesome i feel bad for the one turtle that had the tumors but i am happy that she is all better

  9. Krista on May 4th, 2010 1:43 pm

    this website helped me a ton with my project

  10. Anonymous on May 5th, 2010 5:11 am


  11. Peter on May 5th, 2010 8:24 am

    Hi Alexandra,

    Thanks for buying the book. Thanks also for caring about the turtles, they need all the friends they can get.

    I’m glad you met the turtles of Napili. One of our two study sites is close to there and so it’s likely that the turtles you saw were ones we’ve seen also. The honu are pretty faithful to their reefs. As you learned, many turtles have figured out that humans aren’t a threat. Some of them are still wary, but we get more and more reports of honu that allow people to get close looks. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you can recognize the signals that the turtle is unhappy about the distance between you. Of course, handling them is a bad idea. (Since you read the book you already know this, but I wanted to make the point for other visitors.)

    The opportunities to work with turtles in Hawaii are pretty limited. Since all sea turtles are protected under US law, anyone or any organization working with them must acquire permits that are not easily obtained. The Hawaiian Islands aren’t that large, and while there are some organizations that monitor nesting and basking sites, there’s no “turtle hospital” like the ones in North Carolina and Florida. The organizations that do exist have limited funding and are mostly volunteer-run, so if you do go into turtle work be prepared not to earn a fortune.

    The academic route is a bit more promising, but you would be much better off in Florida than in Hawaii. I’m not aware of turtle-specific options at U of H but you can find some at various Florida universities. I will, however, forward your questions to someone in Hawaii who is much more familiar with the possibilities than I am.

    Again, mahalo for your comments.

  12. Carol Reiner on May 11th, 2010 5:08 am

    Hi – I just wanted you to know that my 5 year old is doing a report on sea turtles this week in Kindegarten – she wants the kids to protect the turtles on the beaches. She was inspired by a tortoise from the Philadelphia zoo – named Prikles – he recently passed away. She will eventually be one of those wonderful people out on the beaches helping turtles to survive!

  13. Anonymous on May 18th, 2010 3:33 am

    hey turtles are kewl. they have all kinds of neat things bout them. they are all unoque in their own cute little way even some mean turtles are cute they have like 600 charactics they are amazing in my eyes they are cute and sometimes cuddly i dont believe in animal abuse either and i hope you guys dont either if you do i wanna let you know that animals and humans have alot in common and i dont really appreicate this kind of behavor towrds them and thanks tons for helpng the turtles but also think bout all the other animals that need help too. if you agree with me post a comment and let me know ow you feel about animal abuse!!!



  14. splashschool on May 19th, 2010 7:35 am

    we are working SAVE OUR INDIAN OCEAN TURTLES since 3 yrs now if you want to help us you are most welcome

  15. H.R.K. on May 26th, 2010 9:37 pm

    I see some Honu with FP on the big island, one is a very sad and bad case.
    Is there a Big Island contact person/office?



  16. Robert Shahon on May 28th, 2010 6:19 pm

    Hello Ursula and Peter,
    I am glad you are dedicating your site to this terrible affliction that affects the turtles. We were just in Kahana on West Maui which I believe is in between the two streams you talk about on your site and saw a bunch of turtles in the bay by our condo, up to 18 of them all resting on the shore. This is when I first discovered the terrible disease these turtles get. I went to take some pictures of these turtles while they were sunning themselves and saw several turtles that were showing signs of Fibropapaloma. One in particular looks like one pictured on your site. This one has a tumor on the right side of it’s head about the size of a regulation hardball and unfortunately it looks as if this turtle no longer has use of it’s right eye. It is also afflicted with several small to medium size tumord on it’s shoulders and around the neck area. This particular turtle looked to be at least 200lbs and over a meter in length. The thing that makes me upset is I see that a place in Florida is removing these growths and having a lot of success with external tumors, can’t do much for any internal tumors. Is there not a place on Maui that can help these poor turtles? I can’t find any information on organizations that help the turtles, only ones that are interested in stranded or dead turtles. Just does not seem right. I would like to see something published on the web for places to report turtles with this disease so they can possibly be helped. From my research into this affliction it appears that it has a lot to do with pollutants in the water from runoff and erosion so it makes sense that the turtles in this area between the two streams are having issues, “Getting Poisoned!”… It’s really sad. We have been going to the same condo’s since 1997 and we saw no turtles the first time we went and this last time (Beginning of May) I saw 18 on a beach all at once so I know the ocean health is getting better in the area but I believe there is a lot more that could be done.
    I have some great pictures of the turtle I mentioned above and 13 others all sunning on the beach a couple hundred yards from the condo’s we stay in if you are interested in them. Maybe the one I describe above is one you have named on your site.


  17. Anonymous on May 29th, 2010 9:18 am

    its cool how yall save turtles

  18. Peter on June 1st, 2010 8:28 am

    Aloha H.R.K,

    For reporting information see our pages at Reporting stranded turtles on the West coast (Kohala/Kona) of the Big Island and Reporting stranded turtles on the East coast (Hilo) of the Big Island. Note that they know there are turtles sick with tumors out there, but they can’t do much about them unless they are stranded ashore.

  19. Peter on June 1st, 2010 9:02 am

    Aloha Robert,

    Kahana is actually north of the two streams but it is close enough that there is almost certainly some overlap among the honu you see and the ones we see at Honokowai.

    The Turtle Hospital in Marathon does remove tumors from some turtles if they determine that the turtle will benefit from the operation. Surgical removal of tumors isn’t a solution except for individual animals, however. It is not a viable treatment for many afflicted turtles, and Florida turtles do not have the complication of (inoperable) tumors inside the mouth and throat that we see in Hawaii. Eye tumors usually can’t be removed without destroying the turtle’s eyesight, and eye tumors are by far the most common type. Internal tumors can’t be operated on.

    Turtles that have had surgery require intensive treatment and a long term holding facility as well. There is nothing like that in Hawaii. The money required isn’t available and sad to say, the benefits aren’t worth the cost. In Florida, our good friend Richie Moretti subsidizes his Turtle Hospital from his business income. While they’ve learned much about treating this nasty disease in Marathon, it is not a model for Hawaii, or anywhere else really. Most turtles that the authorities in Hawaii actually handle are too sick to treat, and it is almost impossible to treat any turtle unless it strands ashore. Even a sick turtle is too difficult to handle in its natural environment. We have reporting links at The Sickbay but as I mentioned, they can’t do anything unless the turtle strands.

    Be wary of research that blames pollution for the problem. While we started out thinking that there was a connection, no one has ever found evidence to support that. That’s not for lack of trying either. The most anyone can say is that there are probably environmental co-factors involved.

    I’m not surprised that seeing honu on the beach is new to you. It’s a new behavior for West Maui that just started in the past couple of years. The number you describe is higher than I normally hear, though. Usually it’s one or two. Four or five is a high number. We’re certainly interested.

  20. Norm SandersWe on June 6th, 2010 12:05 pm

    Aloha Peter: Wonderful book! My wife and I are visiting from Australia and presently snnorkling with the Kauai Ohana.

  21. norm sanders on June 6th, 2010 12:19 pm

    Hi, I m coming to Maui on June 17 and would love to meet your organisation as I m a regular snorkeller, love the book and also a retired scientist.

    Do you have a contact email or phone number ? Thanks, Norm Sanders

  22. Peter on June 7th, 2010 3:00 am

    Aloha Norm,

    Mahalo for the kind words. We’re not an organization, it’s just me and my wife and a web page. We’re not on Maui right now either, we’re stuck in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Usually we’d arrive for a two month stay around the beginning of July, but this year for personal reasons our visit is delayed until November.

    Enjoy the honu and tell them we said aloha!

  23. John Eleps on June 12th, 2010 8:53 pm

    Your website is the best i have seen in agers

  24. Peter on June 13th, 2010 3:23 am

    Hi John,

    That’s really nice of you to say that, considering how neglected it’s been recently. Normally I’d start posting about our adventures on Maui starting next month, but this year we won’t be going until November.

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