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article imageHealth risks from contact with captive sea turtles

By Tim Sandle     Feb 6, 2013 in Environment
A new report has raised concerns about tourists coming into contact with captured sea turtles, such as those found at holiday attractions like aquariums. The risks relate to toxins and pathogens.
The report, published in the journal JRSM Short Reports does state that there is little risk to people from coming into contact with turtles in the sea. The report does indicate, however, that there is a risk from coming into close contact with captured turtles.
The risks, the research note states, can arise from either handling turtles in confined pools or through consuming turtle products. The risks of concern are exposure to toxic contaminants and to pathogens (some pathogens, linked with turtles, are zoonotic, that is they can move from animal to human.
The report is based on a long-term study of the Cayman Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman, where researchers examined trends between 2007 and 2011 (the farm attracted some 1.2 million visitors over this period). The farm is not only a visitor center, it also sells turtle meat to the public and local restaurants. Cayman Island News reports that the farm is controversial and there have been complaints about the treatment of the turtles.
Most of the turtles at the farm are green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Clifford Warwick, lead author of the report is quoted as saying: “the subsequent distribution of visitors exposed to turtle farm conditions may also involve opportunities for further dissemination of contaminants into established tourist hubs, including cruise ships and airline carriers.”
The reason why the toxin and pathogen risk exists within the farm and not in the open seas relates to the methods of rearing turtles, which are often in cramped conditions.
The study was funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
More about green sea turtle, Turtles, Health, Pathogens
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