The Florida FWC hopes to raise $30,000 to develop a test for Virus X, which has killed hundreds of turtles in the last year.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida are working together to try and determine how a mysterious virus has killed of hundreds of soft-shell turtles and peninsula cooters, and Florida conservation license plates will help fund the study.
The FWC and University of Florida are hoping to make $30,000 from the sales of the “Conserve Wildlife” license plates to develop a molecular test that measures the amount of virus. Called Virus X, the test may help the researchers understand the virus might, for example, be concentrated in a turtle's heart versus its liver, Lisa Shender, a commission veterinarian told Jacksonville.com. Shender applied for the grant. Current tests can only determine if a turtle has the virus present in its system, and not how much virus in present.
“The recent deaths of freshwater turtles in the St. Johns River are alarming,” Andrew Walker, CEO of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, said in a statement about the grant. The grant is financed by sales of the state’s “Conserve Wildlife” license plates. “We are committed to finding the cause of the outbreak, as these turtles are an important member of the St. Johns River ecosystem,” Walker said.
The monies collected from the sale of the license plate should fund the research for 18 months. The researchers will determined at the conclusion of the 18 months whether more funding will be requested.