One of the tortoises at Plantation House � Fredrika � will undergo treatment next week for several lesions on her shell (see photos attached).
St Helena Vet, Catherine Man, and her team have been monitoring Fredrika's condition for several months but there is evidence of deterioration which now needs to be treated.
Fredrika has several holes on her shell affecting the keratin layer also known as scutes. It is comparable to a fingernail and protects and covers the dermal bone lying underneath.
These lesions are common in tortoises and I have experience with monitoring and treating similar lesions both from my own tortoise back in the UK as well as whilst working at Paignton Zoo. I have been monitoring Fredrika since I arrived in October 2016 as the lesions generally do not need treating, however one of her lesions has become bigger over the last two weeks and now needs treatment.
Treatment will involve cleaning the shell, removing the areas of scute that are coming loose to ensure that dirt does not get trapped underneath which could cause infection and to remove any dead tissue to allow healthy tissue to grow back. A dremmel attachment on a drill will be used to do this.
The procedure will not be painful to Fredrika and will be very much like filing our fingernails although the vibrations from the drill might feel a bit strange to her. Tortoises tend to like having their backs scratched so I don't think this will bother her.
A swab of the surface will be taken to check there is no infection present. Catherine will then fill the hole with a special gel to encourage healthy tissue to grow back and cover this with a light dressing to protect it from the elements, insects and birds.
Tortoises are cold-blooded animals and have slower metabolisms than humans. This means they tend to do everything slowly, including healing. It is expected that it will take months before the lesions are healed.
Special thanks go to Kevin Eatwell from Edinburgh Veterinary School, John Woollacott and Geoff Benjamin from the St Helena General Hospital as well as Ivan Gough for their assistance.
Source: St Helena Government