Sea Turtle Conservancy’s research and conservation program at Tortuguero, Costa Rica, is a conservation success story. When STC’s founder Dr. Archie Carr first arrived at the site in the 1950s, the green turtle population was in drastic decline—slipping toward extinction—due to the unsustainable harvesting of nesting turtles. Over the next six decades, a sustained research, education and conservation program has been carried out by STC, in close partnership with the community of Tortuguero and the Government of Costa Rica. Through the combined efforts of everyone involved, the unsustainable harvesting of sea turtles was eliminated and replaced with a local economy built on ecotourism. Once protected, the turtles responded by recovering to the point of being the largest remaining colony of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Western Hemisphere (and probably the world), and STC’s program at Tortuguero has become a global model for how sea turtles can be saved. Unfortunately, a situation is unfolding in Tortuguero due to COVID-19 that jeopardizes much of the success that has been achieved to recover this globally-important sea turtle population.
Because Costa Rica’s borders are closed to foreign visitors for the foreseeable future, nearly all of STC’s international Research Assistants, who assist with carrying out our research and protection program, are unable to get to Tortuguero. Even if the borders open later this summer, most of our previously-committed volunteers have had to make other plans. As a result, STC’s small crew of staff members in Tortuguero have been thrust onto the front lines of wildlife protection, performing tasks that once were carried out by a team of 25 people. STC also has seen the complete loss of revenue we count on from our Visitors’ Center gift shop and an eco-volunteer program we normally conduct at our research station. Meanwhile, the presence of Costa Rican law enforcement on the beach at Tortuguero has dwindled significantly, at the same time the threat of illegal hunting is skyrocketing due to the collapse of ecotourism in the country. Without the typical presence of park guards, tour groups and tourists on the beach in Tortuguero, STC is documenting significant increases in illegal poaching of adult turtles and nests. This alarming trend, combined with the complete lack of revenue being generated in Tortuguero, is STC’s biggest programmatic challenge resulting from the pandemic.
Our staff members are working overtime day and night to deter turtle hunters from killing turtles as they crawl ashore to nest, and we are doing our best to hide nests in order to protect the eggs from being taken. While the calamity unfolding in Tortuguero is not on the same level as what has been confronting healthcare and other front-line workers serving people in the US and abroad, STC’s dedicated staff Tortuguero is manning the front line of defense on behalf of imperiled sea turtles that are under greater threat because of the impacts of the pandemic.
In honor of World Sea Turtle Day (June 16), a date selected because it is Archie Carr’s birthday, STC asks for your support. Please help us sustain the critical work taking place in Tortuguero to ensure that the incredible progress made on behalf of sea turtles over the last six decades is not jeopardized as a result of this pandemic. Your donation will directly support STC’s ability to hire additional Costa Ricans to fill the void created by our lack of international volunteer Research Assistants. Donations will also be matched up to $5,000 through June 16.
This need is urgent and timely, as green turtle nesting is now underway. A single season of rampant illegal harvesting of adult turtles can severely jeopardize the recovery of green turtles at Tortuguero—one of the world’s great conservation success stories. With your help, we will have the ability to ensure that this does not happen. Click here to donate now.
For more information about STC’s work in Tortuguero, click here: https://conserveturtles.org/stc-programs-research-tortuguero-costa-rica/.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) announces a change in the scientific oversight of its international sea turtle research and monitoring programs. Effective in July, the position of Scientific Director will transition from Dr. Emma Harrison to Dr. Roldán Valverde. Anyone interested in collaborating with STC on research projects in Costa Rica, Panama and other international sites are encouraged to reach out directly to Dr. Valverde at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, anyone interested in exploring opportunities to serve as a Research Assistant with the Tortuguero program or at STC’s project sites in Panama can now direct those inquires to Roldán.
While STC is very excited about what Dr. Valverde will bring to this position, the organization is equally sad to announce the departure of Dr. Emma Harrison, who has resigned to explore new opportunities in the field of biological conservation. Dr. Harrison has worked with STC off and on since 1998 and has served as Scientific Director since 2006. Through her leadership and passion, Dr. Harrison continued a long tradition of outstanding scientific oversight of STC’s sea turtle monitoring programs; she trained and inspired countless research assistants and helped expand STC’s education and community outreach programs in both Costa Rica and Panama. Emma will be greatly missed by STC, though she will forever remain a part of the STC family and the history of the organization.
As STC’s incoming Scientific Director, Dr. Valverde will provide scientific oversight of STC’s various sea turtle research programs, particularly the long-term projects in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, and Bocas del Toro, Panama. Over two decades ago, as a young Costa Rican biologist, Roldán served as Research Coordinator of STC’s Tortuguero research program. Since that time, he has achieved international recognition in the field of sea turtle research and is a leading expert in the area of sea turtle physiology. Dr. Valverde served recently as President of the International Sea Turtle Society; he is well published; and he currently serves as a graduate biology professor at Southeast Louisiana University in New Orleans. As a native Costa Rican and an accomplished scientist and educator, Roldán will be in an ideal position to continue elevating the science and the effectiveness of STC’s many research and conservation programs. He also will help STC expand its efforts to cultivate and train young biologists from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Valverde’s position with STC is endowed by the Emily T. Clay Scientific Director’s Endowment.
Since 1959, STC has been conducting conservation programs in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Tortuguero is one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in the world. This means that vital sea turtle nesting research is conducted by our staff in Tortuguero. However, the staff housing building, the Kontiki, could no longer withstand the harsh climate.
For Giving Tuesday 2014 and World Sea Turtle Day 2015 we held a campaign to raise money to rebuild the Kontiki. Between our Members’ donations and generous contributions from Naked Turtle Rum and the Lisa Jo Randgaard family, we raised enough money to begin a rebuild of the Kontiki! The rebuilt Kontiki will be dedicated in honor of Lisa Jo Randgaard.
As you may notice in the photos, we are trying to save as much material as we can from the old house to keep this project sustainable. STC would like to give a big thank you to all our donors for helping us begin this project, we couldn’t have done it with out you! The new and improved Kontiki will keep our researchers safe while they continue vital sea turtle research. Check back and stay tuned for more updates on the progress of the Kontiki!
Learn more about the Kontiki project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM0tbA5k5a4
And follow STC Tortuguero on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SeaTurtleConservancyTortuguero/?fref=ts
It is with a heavy heart that STC shares the news that longtime sea turtle conservationist Larry Ogren has passed away. Larry Ogren studied biology at the University of Florida under Archie Carr in the 1950s. He was one of Archie’s first graduate research assistants and accompanied Archie on some of his earliest trips to Tortuguero. In fact, when Archie set up the sea turtle tagging program in Tortuguero, it was Larry who stayed behind, in the field, to run the program when Archie returned to Florida. This field work led to some of the earliest and most important published papers on sea turtle ecology and migrations, which Larry co-authored with Dr. Carr.
In 1956, the first year of sea turtle tagging, Dr. Carr accompanied Larry to Tortuguero, where he left him alone to carry out the work. There was no research station and nothing but an open air hut to sleep in. As Archie left Larry on the beach that year, he left him with these parting words (as told by Larry), “Now you know it’s hot as hell down here; you’ll get sand in your britches walking the beach, and you’ll get bored to death. If you do, just go into town and have a beer. Take a break, because it’s going to be a long, wet summer. See you in a few months.”
And with that encouraging send-off, Larry’s adventures in Tortuguero began. And for anyone who has ever spoken with Larry about those years, there was plenty of adventure, like the time he was flying over the Yucatan in Mexico on a Navy plane as part of Operation Green Turtle, which was an attempt coordinated by Sea Turtle Conservancy (known then as Caribbean Conservation Corporation) in partnership with the Navy to start new green turtle nesting colonies by releasing hatchlings at beaches around the Caribbean. They were flying at night in a horrible storm and quickly running out of gas. The weather was socked in and they couldn’t find the airport. The pilot thought they were going to crash until he spotted headlights on a road below, which could be either coming from or going to the airport. He made a 50-50 guess that happened to be right; they found the runway just before having to ditch the plane.
After completing numerous seasons in the field with CCC, Larry went on to a very successful career with the National Marine Fisheries Service, where he played a prominent role in stimulating global interest in sea turtle conservation. His efforts led to the funding of the first systematic study of sea turtles in the Atlantic, the results from which were presented at the Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium, which Larry organized. That symposium was the first international conference focused on sea turtles that involved elected officials and natural resource managers from around the Atlantic and Caribbean. The symposium helped stimulate turtle protection regulations in countries around the region that previously had no laws protecting sea turtles. Also through his work with Fisheries Service, Larry helped push through the first regulations requiring the use of Turtle Excluder Devices on shrimp trawls in the U.S., regulations that undoubtedly saved tens of thousands of sea turtles. Larry served for many years as a member of CCC’s Board of Directors and continued to guide the organization as a member of STC’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Like Dr. Carr before him, Larry Ogren was a lifelong champion of sea turtle conservation. A few years back, STC established an award to honor individuals, who, like Archie Carr, had dedicated a substantial part of their lives to the cause of sea turtle research and protection. Larry Ogren is one of just four people to be awarded the “Archie Carr Lifetime Achievement Award,” which he was presented in New York in 2009 as STC celebrated its 50th anniversary.
In 2013, Larry worked with writer Anne Ake to publish the book “Turning Turtles in Tortuguero: Stories from the Origins of Sea Turtle Conservation,” a wonderful and humorous look back at Larry’s experiences working with STC and Archie Carr in the earliest days of sea turtle conservation – work that helped inspire the global movement to protect sea turtles.
Larry was a trailblazer, a one-of-a-kind naturalist, conservationist and human being. He was a friend to many in the sea turtle conservation community and he will be missed dearly.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is excited to welcome new turtle sponsor Pacsafe to the Tour de Turtles (TdT) marathon this year! Pacsafe is sponsoring a green turtle who will be tagged and released from Tortuguero, Costa Rica in July. Along with their turtle competitor sponsorship, Pacsafe recently launched the Pacsafe Turtle Fund which will also provide support for the TdT educational program.
Outpac Designs Limited, the makers of Pacsafe, was established in 1998 by two Australian friends who traveled all over the world. Their own experiences and those of the travelers they met convinced them of the need for secure travel gear. From there, the eXomesh anti-theft technology was born, which formed the award-winning Pacsafe anti-theft backpack protector, complete with turtle logo.
Pacsafe’s creators were initially inspired by the sea turtle and its independent global wanderings. Today, Pacsafe’s Turtle Fund works with local communities at grass roots levels to preserve the sea turtle, protect its natural habitats, focus on breeding programs and increase awareness for these majestic creatures.
“As a company, we believe in sustainability and doing everything we can to work with local communities to ensure the sea turtle doesn’t become extinct,” said Magnus McGlashan, Managing Director for Pacsafe.
After the fund was launched in May 2014, it worked to provide funds for sea turtle conservation projects around the world that support endangered turtle species. Pacsafe chose to support three sea turtle projects in 2015, including the Tour de Turtles, which were chosen for their innovative approaches to turtle conservation, research and education.
“We loved how Tour de Turtles makes sea turtle conservation educational and fun, while making it accessible to a greater audience and younger generation,” McGlashan said.
Pacsafe has chosen to name its turtle competitor “Pawikan.” McGlashan explained that Pawikan means ‘sea turtle,’ in Tagalog, the language spoken in much of the Philippines. Pawikan is also the official name of the turtle featured in the Pacsafe logo that was selected five years ago in a competition.
Pacsafe hopes to engage its staff, distributors, retailers and customers all over the world with the excitement of the TdT race and its mission. McGlashan said that Pacsafe is very excited about being a part of the program and following its sponsored turtle throughout her adventures.
“We can’t wait to see where [she] wanders!” McGlashan said.
STC would like to thank Pacsafe for helping our cause! You will be able to track Pawikan and her turtle friends online at www.tourdeturtles.org starting August 2nd! Good luck, Pawikan!
Knocking out holiday shopping early is at the top of everyone’s wish lists, but what about giving back? First there was Black Friday, and then came Cyber Monday, but the growing trend this holiday season is #GivingTuesday.
#GivingTuesday is a campaign to create an international day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations.
Taking place on December 2, 2014 (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the US), #GivingTuesday harnesses the power of social media to inspire holiday shoppers to give to organizations in need before giving to each other. Click here to find out more about #GivingTuesday.
The campaign has launched a movement that has engaged well over 10,000 individuals, cities, and organizations worldwide, and STC is proud to be included. Last year was the first year that STC participated in #GivingTuesday and we raised almost $5,000 for sea turtle conservation efforts!
This year, STC invites you to donate to help make improvements to our station in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the most important nesting location for green turtles in the Western Hemisphere. Our team has been conducting research and conservation programs there for more than 55 years.
This building is the only original building remaining onsite and has been facing the humid, salty climate of Tortuguero for 20 years. Immediate repairs to the station are needed to keep our researchers and volunteers safe and dry while they monitor and protect this critical nesting beach.
For every dollar raised on December 2nd, 2014, STC’s Board of Directors has generously offered to match up to $15,000. Help turn $15,000 into $30,000 for the research, education, advocacy and protection of sea turtles!
Donations can be made on STC’s website on December 2nd to count towards the goal and the matching gift. Click here to make a donation!
Want more ways to double or even triple your impact? See if your company will match your donation by using https://doublethedonation.com/giving-tuesday! Just click this link and search for your company. You’ll find information on whether a match is provided and what the next step is. Company matching gifts are an easy, free way to make your donation to Sea Turtle Conservancy go even further.
Along with STC’s #GivingTuesday goal, we’re encouraging our supporters to make their voices heard on social media.
Let STC know what you’re doing on #GivingTuesday by sharing your story on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Make sure to use the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #unselfie, and don’t forget to tag us. Click to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Giving back has the power to bring us all together regardless of locations, beliefs or cultures. Join forces with the rest of the world this holiday season and let’s make a difference!
There was no shortage of excitement in this year’s Tour de Turtles (TdT) marathon! This was the seventh consecutive year that Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) followed the migration of 11 sea turtles as part of the TdT and we are continually amazed by the unending support and enthusiasm shown for our turtle “competitors!”
The 2014 TdT included live turtle releases in Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis and Florida. This year was the first time that a rehabilitated loggerhead turtle competed in the TdT. ‘Pine Tyme‘, an 80 pound sub-adult loggerhead, was spotted struggling on the surface unable to dive and was brought to The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL for treatment. She was released from Sombrero Beach, The Florida Keys and marked STC’s first ever release in the Florida Keys.
Before releasing each turtle, STC scientists attached a satellite transmitter to their shell using turtle-safe epoxy or fiberglass resin. The transmitters allowed STC and the public to track the turtles as they migrated from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. After three months of friendly competition, we have our winners, along with “updates from the field” from the turtle competitors!
WINNER – Panama Jack, 3936 km, Team Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
2nd – Calypso Blue III, 2685 km, Team Atlantis Resort
3rd – Esperanza, 1679 km, Team Treadright & Contiki Holidays
4th – Estrella, 1549 km, Team Sea Turtle Conservancy
5th – Elsa, 1445 km Team Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
6th – Melba, 1226 km, Team Turtle Tag www.helpingseaturtles.org
7th – Shelley, 761 km Team Ripley’s Aquariums
8th – Pine Tyme, 684 km Team Turtle Hospital
9th – Anna, 672 km, Team Disney’s Vero Beach Resort & Disney’s Animal Programs
10th – Coco, 593 km & 11th – Sugar, 517 km, both Team Four Seasons Resort Nevis
People’s Choice Award:
WINNER – Calypso Blue III
2nd – Shelley
3rd – (TIE) Esperanza and Panama Jack
5th – Pine Tyme
6th – Elsa
7th – Coco
8th – Estrella
9th – Anna
Updates from our competitors:
1ST PLACE – PANAMA JACK
Release site: Punta Rincon Beach, Panama
Sponsor: Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Distance traveled: 3936 km.
Update from the Field: Hey everyone, Panama Jack here! Good golly, I just can’t believe I won the Tour de Turtles! I was just splishing and splashing all over the place trying to spread the word about the importance of sea turtle friendly lighting. After I left Punta Rincon Beach in Panama, I made my way over to Mexico, where I heard there were lots of yummy jellyfish for me to snack on! As you can see, I’m a pretty big girl so it’s important that I eat lots and lots of jellyfish to maintain all this energy! Now that the marathon is over, I think I’ll just hang out in the Gulf of Mexico enjoying a nice, belly-filling buffet! Thanks for cheering me on!
2ND PLACE – CALYPSO BLUE III
Release site: Soropta Beach, Panama
Distance traveled: 2685 km.
Update from the field: Calypso Blue III checking in! Phew, I’ve already swam over a thousand miles but I’m not stopping anytime soon! I spent most of the marathon cruising through the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. I even managed to stop by Bourbon Street in New Orleans to have some fun! Throughout my travels, I’ve been telling all my marine friends about how excited I am to have my migration tracked and swim for the cause of commercial trawl fisheries. Louisiana is the largest producer of shrimp in the U.S. which means there are tons of shrimp nets in this very area. Unfortunately, Louisiana hasn’t fully enforced the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their nets. I had to get stern with a couple of fishermen but quickly befriended some that agreed to compromise with me! I think I’m going to head out of the area now just to be safe… Thanks to my friends at Atlantis for always having my shell!
3RD PLACE – ESPERANZA
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: Contiki Holidays & TreadRight Foundation
Cause: Egg Harvest for Consumption
Distance Traveled: 1679 km.
Update from the Field: Hola, mis amigos! Esperanza’s back to check in with my loyal fans and give a shout out to my sponsors at Contiki and TreadRight Foundation. Without their help and the support of my fans, there’s no way I would’ve found the speed to swim all the way up the ranks from 7th place to 3rd place! Afterall, don’t forget that esperanza is Spanish for hope and – against all odds -I made it onto the winners’ podium! Even though I had quite the rough start to the race with a poacher digging up my nest and stealing my eggs, my friends at STC were able to save the day and rebury my precious eggs, which just hatched in September! Thanks to everyone who cheered me on and helped raise support for the many threats my species face, especially poaching. I couldn’t have done it without you! Adios!
4TH PLACE – ESTRELLA
Release site: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Sponsor: Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC)
Distance Traveled: 1549 km.
Update from the Field: Greetings, humans. Estrella here. According to my calculations, I did not swim far enough to qualify for the Tour de Turtles winner podium. Nonetheless, it’s been quite the journey! Throughout my travels, I’ve been collecting research and data off the coast of Nicaragua and what I’ve found was quite peculiar… The number of turtles that I encountered in the area was very limited. These findings may be due to the fact that it is actually legal in parts of Nicaragua to capture and consume turtles as they’re apart of the natives’ diet. Raising awareness about such issues and enforcing policies will hopefully help get my fellow turtles (and me!) off the endangered species list. Well, I’m going to kick it into high gear now and try to swim past Nicaragua… I certainly wouldn’t want to end up as someone’s dinner!
5TH PLACE – ELSA
Release site: Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
Sponsor: Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund
Distance Traveled: 1445 km.
Update from the Field: Hello there peasants! Yes, I am Elsa, named after the queen from Disney’s Frozen. I’m here to report back to my original kingdom at Disney’s Vero Beach to discuss some of the royal duties I’ve partaken in since I left my sand castle in July. My duties took me from Vero Beach to Key Largo to Cuba, and I recycled and picked up trash and other marine debris along the way. It’s only right that the Queen pays her respects to the ocean. Naturally, I ran into some issues when trying to eat dinner the other night and mistook a plastic grocery bag for a delicious jellyfish. This is a situation that could be avoided by recycling plastics and using reusable bags. Wish me luck, I’m off to conquer my next kingdom… The Bahamas!
6TH PLACE – MELBA
Release site: Melbourne Beach, FL
Sponsor: FL Sea Turtle License Plate
Distance Traveled: 1226 km.
Update from the Field: Aloha dudes and dudettes! Melba here. Because of the gnarly waves I tried to catch while swimming, I accidentally moved all the way down from 3rd place to 6th place… But the journey was absolutely tubular! I met some fellow surfer chicks along the way and took the opportunity to teach them about a totally important cause—water quality, dude! They promised me they would work together to try and prevent oil spills and urban run-off caused by fertilizers and other chemicals so that we can safely enjoy the stellar surf for years to come! But I’m off to celebrate my Tour de Turtles success with some chill loggerhead ladies… I might even buy myself one of those rad sea turtle license plates for my carapace! Catch ya on the flip side dudes!
7TH PLACE – SHELLEY
Release site: Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge
Sponsor: Ripley’s Aquariums
Distance Traveled: 761 km.
Update from the Field: Hello darlings! You all know me as Shelley, the turtle with levels of glamour that Vogue couldn’t even handle. I won’t lie, being without my glam squad and entourage these past few months was rough but I knew my migration was raising awareness about the issue of commercial longline fisheries, and that is important. I think of the ocean as my runway and plan to continue swimming through it with grace and poise. How can I do that if I have to worry about being caught up in longline fishing? Luckily, I didn’t come across any during my travels, probably because my fabulous sponsors at Ripley’s Aquariums have been cheering me on. Even though I didn’t win the race, I’m hoping there is still a chance at a tiara. Ciao, bellas!
8TH PLACE – PINE TYME
Release site: Marathon, Florida Keys
Sponsor: The Turtle Hospital
Distance Traveled: 684 km.
Update from the Field: For a previously injured turtle, I’ve come a long way! Mostly thanks to my great friends at The Turtle Hospital. After gaining my strength back, I traveled over 400 miles from Marathon, Florida to my current location right outside the Dry Tortugas National Park. This national park is about 70 miles off the coast of Key West and was established to protect the island and marine ecosystems. I had to duck out of the way of several speeding boats along the way so now I’m just trying to steer clear of the ferries touring the place. As a rehabilitated turtle who was also the last to enter the race, I knew I couldn’t afford another setback like a boat strike so now I’m just trying to find a nice, calm place to feed. I honestly can’t even believe I made it this far when just several months ago I was gassy and floating bottom up at The Turtle Hospital! Thanks to everyone who helped cheer me on during the marathon!
9TH PLACE – ANNA
Release site: Disney Vero Beach Resort (DVBR)
Sponsor: Disney Animal Programs & DVBR
Distance Traveled: 672 km.
Update from the Field: Hi friends, Anna here! I successfully made my way all the way down the Florida coastline and decided to spend some time in Florida Keys. Everything during the marathon went quite swimmingly, except for this one huge storm that got me a little off track last month. I ended up along the shores of Miami, which was a very interesting place indeed. One thing I noticed is that their beachfront hotels and clubs had so many bright lights on, you could probably see them from space! I knew better and wasn’t distracted by their glow but let’s just hope my friends don’t end up drawn towards the lights when they come up to nest! After my little visit to South Beach, I got worn out from signing autographs for all my Frozen fans and set off towards Key West to relax where I plan to stay. Check back with me soon!
10TH PLACE – COCO
Release Site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
Sponsor: Four Seasons – Nevis
Distance Traveled: 593 km.
Update from the Field: Oh, hello there. I didn’t realize this interview was going to be published. I don’t really do well with large groups. Sorry, erm… How about a little joke to break the ice? So, um, I’m on my way to St. Kitts from Nevis and I come across what I thought were some fellow hawksbills. I’m shy enough as it is so I really had to work up the nerve to approach these guys. I try to make conversation, which is rare for me, and I’m getting no reply. I start to get more nervous as their silence lengthens. Was it something I said? Do I have a piece of sponge in my teeth? Finally, I realize I’d been talking to floating coconuts the whole time… That embarrassing encounter certainly did nothing to help me get over my social anxieties. I was also hoping for a confidence boost by winning the Tour de Turtles race, but then I just got so nervous and I decided to stay close to home where I’m most comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with last place, especially since I know the great people at Four Seasons Nevis will always cheer for me, no matter what!
11TH PLACE – SUGAR
Release site: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
Sponsor: Four Seasons – Nevis
Distance Traveled: 517 km.
Update from the Field: Hi friends! My name is Sugar and I’m the sweetest hawksbill you’ll ever meet! During the Tour de Turtles, I got some slack from a few mean turtles about my slow pace but I couldn’t help that I enjoyed the beautiful waters of the Caribbean so much! Who said there’s anything wrong about being on island time? The water near St. Kitts is especially warm, I just hope it’s not due to climate change! I promise to do some investigating while I’m here and raise awareness about this potential threat. Now excuse me while I go enjoy a deliciously sweet drink with my friends at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis to celebrate the end of Tour de Turtles!
Sea Turtle Conservancy would like to give a big THANK YOU to all of our great turtle sponsors for this year’s Tour de Turtles — Four Seasons Resort, Nevis — Disney’s Animal Programs — Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Fund — Disney’s Vero Beach Resort — Turtle & Hughes, Inc. — Atlantis Resort — Ripley’s Aquariums — Contiki Holidays — The TreadRight Foundation — The Turtle Hospital — and Florida’s Sea Turtle License Plate.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) kicked off its seventh annual Tour de Turtles (TdT) with a live sea turtle release on July 27 at the Barrier Island Center, located in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida.Loggerhead Melba was released in Florida on July 27, 2014
A crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered to watch as STC researchers released two adult female loggerhead sea turtles, named ‘Shelley’ and ‘Melba,’ into the ocean to begin their migrations. ‘Shelley’ was named by her sponsors at Ripley’s Aquariums while ‘Melba‘ was named via STC’s Facebook contest. Shelley and Melba are just two of 11 sea turtles representing four different species swimming in the TdT migration marathon, an annual program that conducts valuable research and raises public awareness about sea turtles.
The 2014 TdT included live turtle releases in Panama, Costa Rica, Nevis and Florida. The final release is on August 15 at Sombrero Beach, Fla. This year is the first time that a rehabilitated loggerhead turtle is competing in the TdT. ‘Pine Tyme‘, an 80 pound sub-adult loggerhead, was spotted struggling on the surface unable to dive and is now being treated at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Upon recovery, Pine Tyme will be equipped with a satellite transmitter and released from Sombrero Beach, Fla. on August 15 at 1:00 p.m. This is also is STC’s first ever release in the Keys.
“This is the seventh year of the Tour de Turtles and we are thrilled with how the program has grown and gained popularity over the years,” said David Godfrey, executive director of STC. “More people are turning out for the live release events and logging onto the website to learn about these turtles than ever before. Not only do we have a diverse group of turtles this year, but also a very diverse group of sponsors supporting this educational program. It’s amazing to see the variety of businesses, from resorts, to lighting companies and aquariums, that come together to raise awareness for sea turtles.”
Before releasing each turtle, STC scientists attach a satellite transmitter to its shell using turtle-safe epoxy or fiberglass resin. The transmitters allow STC and the public to track the turtles as they migrate from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. Turtle fans can follow the turtles’ migrations online at www.tourdeturtles.org, and cheer on on their favorite competitor while learning about some of the threats sea turtles face. Fans can support their favorite turtle through a virtual adoption or by making a pledge for each mile the turtle swims. The turtle who swims the farthest by October 31 will be crowned the winner of the ‘race’ while the turtle who raises the most money will be crowned the ‘People’s Choice Winner.’
Some interesting facts about the 2014 Tour de Turtles:
‘Esperanza’, a green sea turtle sponsored by Contiki and the TreadRight Foundation, is swimming to raise awareness about the threat of egg harvesting for consumption. After she laid her eggs on July 3, 2014, it was discovered that her nest had been poached and her eggs stolen! Luckily, the local police were able to catch the poacher and return the eggs to STC’s team, who quickly and carefully reburied them in a new location. Hopefully we’ll see some green hatchlings erupting from Esperanza’s nest in September!
‘Sugar’, a hawksbill sponsored by Four Seasons Resort Nevis, already had flipper tags when STC found her nesting on Lovers Beach, Nevis. After looking up her tag number, STC was able to determine that she was first tagged by the Nevis Turtle Group in 2007. This was great news because it provided further evidence that sea turtles return to the same beach to nest.
‘Melba’, a loggerhead sponsored by the Sea Turtle Grants Program, ranks in the top five largest loggerheads STC has ever released! She also has one of the biggest heads, which is fitting as loggerheads get their name from their exceptionally large heads.
Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is excited to introduce one of our newest Tour de Turtles competitors, Esperanza! Esperanza is an adult green sea turtle that will be outfitted with a satellite transmitter on July 4, 2014 in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the most important nesting site of the endangered green sea turtle in the Western Hemisphere. She was named by her sponsors, Contiki Holidays and The TreadRight Foundation, via a Facebook contest. Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.”
This is the first time Contiki and TreadRight have partnered with STC for the Tour de Turtles. This unique new partnership is multi-faceted and puts the spotlight on sea turtle conservation in popular tourism countries.
Contiki, a travel company that was started in 1962, offers travel tours in 46 countries to 18 – 35-year-olds. The TreadRight Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2008 by Contiki and other travel brands to encourage sustainable tourism among their brands and the places they visit.
Lauren McPhillips, public relations and partnership manager for Contiki, said sponsoring a turtle in Tour de Turtles was a simple decision for them because the program increases a sea turtle’s chance of long term survival and, “aids in enabling a greater understanding of these majestic sea creatures and their migration patterns.”
In 2011, Contiki began Contiki Cares, which focuses on becoming a more sustainable organization by encouraging their travelers to respect and care for the places they visit so those places can be discovered for generations to come. They also partnered with environmental activist and documentary filmmaker Celine Cousteau.
According to McPhillips, “Contiki is obsessed with all things sun, sand and surf, and have made ocean conservation the focus for partnerships.”
McPhillips said Tortuguero is a popular stop for travelers who go on Contiki’s Costa Rica trip, and that it’s evident sea turtles are essential to Tortuguero. Both Contiki and TreadRight had recognized STC’s work in preserving the places they travel to for quite some time.
They also admired that STC creates opportunities for young, aspiring researchers and conservationists, she said.
Shannon Guihan, program director for TreadRight Foundation, said it was a combination of those things that made a partnership with STC “a perfect fit.”
In honor of Earth Month this year, Contiki sent Cousteau along with 12 young storytellers to Tortuguero to explore the country’s beauty, learn about STC’s mission and tell the story of it all in their own ways. The group consisted of bloggers, writers, photographers and more who came from all over the world including countries like the Philippines, the United States and New Zealand.
During their trip, the group of storytellers regularly posted to various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their experience. They also put together an inspiring video documenting their weeklong visit to Costa Rica, highlighting STC’s work with sea turtles.
Contiki has pledged to sponsor an additional turtle in Tour de Turtles if the documentary video reaches 250,000 views. If you haven’t checked out the video yet, you can watch it online at http://www.contiki.com/storytellers.
Since the Storytellers trip, every Contiki Tour that goes through Tortuguero will have the opportunity to adopt a turtle through STC.
In addition to sponsoring a Tour de Turtles competitor, Contiki and TreadRight also sponsored the research of a member of STC’s Research Assistantship Program.
McPhillips and Guihan said they are looking forward to seeing how their efforts aid in the research and survival of turtles like Esperanza and can’t wait to share the results with their travelers.
STC would like to thank Contiki and TreadRight for helping our cause!
Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Eco-Volunteer Adventure is a unique and educational way to take part in travel that helps conservation. With hands-on opportunities, Eco-Volunteer Adventures are designed to get you up close and personal with sea turtles! Click here for a sample turtle program itinerary or read on for a first-hand account of Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Eco-Volunteer Program, written by Eco-Volunteer Heather Suffron.
So there I was, hiking along the beach in the middle of the night, large caliper in hand, as the hot tropical breeze rushed against my face while I searched with my patrol partners for mama sea turtle tracks in the sand and felt the need to pinch myself for the umpteenth time to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But it wasn’t a dream, though it very much felt like one. Nor was it an episode of Planet Earth or National Geographic or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, though it felt like one. I was actually walking the beach while the Caribbean surf splashed at my side, and the moon illuminated the night sky as we scanned the sand. And I was actually working to help monitor, protect, and gather data on these magnificent creatures as an Eco-Volunteer with Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC)!
Having chosen to take some time off work to participate in various volunteer projects around the world, I was in the midst of my week with STC on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. I researched and chose each of my projects based on location, type of volunteer work, cost, and integrity and effectiveness of the program, and I could not have been happier with my experience at STC.
I participated as an Eco-Volunteer at the field station in Tortuguero, an incredibly unique and sensitive location that serves as nesting habitat for green, leatherback, hawksbill and the occasional loggerhead sea turtle – all of which are either threatened or endangered species.
Participants in the Eco-Volunteer program can join for one to three weeks, and there is often a birding research option, as well. Each sea turtle nesting season, a group of Research Assistants (RAs) live and work at the field station for three months at a time. As an Eco-Volunteer, I, too, stayed at the field station in a very clean and well-appointed research residence and was welcomed into the fold.
While there, I participated in a number of nighttime beach patrols, as well as a few early morning track surveys. This is truly on-the-ground, hands-on work with the RAs; we checked nesting turtles for tags and general health, measured their shells, and logged the data during beach patrols, and counted new tracks and monitored a number of nests during the track surveys.
Getting to know the coordinators and RAs was an additional joy. They were full of life, energy and ideas, and are clearly interested in, and dedicated to, helping protect the planet and its wildlife.
Working with turtles is an experience I will simply never forget. The females frequently return to the same beach they were born in order to lay their own eggs, nesting several times in the same season. They are amazing creatures, and I felt truly humbled and honored to be working with them and getting to do things that most travelers and tourists never have the opportunity to try.
Furthermore, I was incredibly fortunate to be there when a number of hatchlings emerged from their nests, and the experience of watching tiny baby sea turtles make their way across the beach to dip their flippers in the sea for the first time is pretty powerful and special!
I was also able to learn more about STC’s efforts within the community. In addition to research on the beach, the STC staff and RAs are involved in community outreach efforts, environmental education, and ongoing discussions with local groups and organizations. With time and continued advocacy, I think even more progress will be made towards further preservation efforts.
All in all, I had a thrilling experience while at STC – and one in which I felt very involved. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I’m so glad I took it!
STC has available Eco-Volunteer opportunities for leatherback turtles, green turtles, and birding! Eco-Volunteers must be 18 years or older (16 years or older accompanied by an adult). This experience is ideal for educators, couples, spring breakers, groups, or anyone who is interested in helping sea turtles and making a difference. Eco-Volunteer Adventures run from March through October. Options include 1, 2 and 3 week sessions. For more info, visit STC’s Eco-Volunteer page online or click here to register for a program.
Sea Turtle Conservancy is currently accepting applications for sea turtle research assistants in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Research and monitoring of sea turtles in Tortuguero was initiated in the 1950’s by legendary sea turtle researcher Dr. Archie Carr. Dr. Carr continued his work in Tortuguero until his passing in 1987 and STC continues to conduct annual programs at the site, making it the longest ongoing sea turtle conservation and monitoring program in the world.
Between eight and sixteen Research Assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the STC Field Research Coordinator. The RAs main responsibilities include nightly tagging, track surveys, nest monitoring and excavation. RAs are responsible for tagging nesting turtles, collecting biometric data from females, recording nesting activity during track surveys, and other pertinent data collection. RA positions are voluntary and selected RAs will receive board and lodging at the STC Field Station for the duration of their time working for STC in Tortuguero.
STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for respected conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide. Or like previous RA Ralph Pace, they continue their work with STC. Ralph was an RA in 2010 and then took on the role of STC Field Research Coordinator in 2013. Ralph is also a talented photographer. Below are some exciting details and photos from his time spent in Tortuguero with STC:
“When I took the position here as the Field Research Coordinator in Tortuguero, Costa Rica I knew fully what I was getting into. Having spent three months here as a Research Assistant for half of the green turtle season in 2010, I was well aware of the wild adventure and surprise that Tortuguero would provide. When most people hear I am working on a Caribbean beach in Costa Rica they envision a white sand beach where luxurious tiki style huts hang over crystal clear water. But, here it is far more rustic and wild. Imagine Jungle Book meets Indiana Jones. In reality, Tortuguero is a highly dynamic beach who’s landscape changes as fast as the tide. The beach is backed by a lush, dense jungle that is supported by the migration of sea turtles.
Under the clearest of Milky Way skies, we set out to patrol the beach nightly in search of three to four hundred pound nesting female turtles. We do so to collect data and monitor their epic population rebound of 500% here in Tortuguero. Then as quickly as the turtles appear they vanish on their return to far off feeding ground around the Caribbean.
The beach becomes an expressway for millions of babies who are only just beginning their majestic journey. Just this morning during a track survey, I stood in shock as six hundred hatchlings emerged under the hardest of rains. As the baby hatchlings entered the water I couldn’t help but wonder where the offshore currents will take them. Will they go to Bermuda, Brazil or Cuba as many of our turtles do? Or, will they settle closer to home in Nicaragua? (Click here to watch an amazing video Ralph shot of green sea turtles hatching!)
As with all the other mysteries, I wonder, where have six months gone? Then I remember the thousands of turtles I have seen, hundreds of hours on the beach, the dozen meteor showers, the manatee I took DNA samples of, the jaguar I stood face to face with, the daily howler monkey alarm clocks at 5 am, the hundreds of kids served in the local schools and the countless friends I’ve met from around the world that have made it all so epic. So what makes this place so special? Of the five continents I have explored, the mystique and adventure of Tortuguero is like no other place I have ever seen or imagined.”
To view more spectacular sea turtle photos by Ralph, check out his Facebook page RALFotos.
For more information about STC’s Research Assistant positions including a project summary and work description, click here. The deadline to apply for the Leatherback Research Program is January 7, 2014 and the Green Turtle Program deadline is March 10, 2014. For questions pertaining to STC’s Research Assistant Program, please contact STC Scientific Director Emma Harrison at email@example.com.
At the end of September 2010, STC initiated the construction of a Education Kiosk in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. The building is constructed with concrete floor, a wooden frame and a traditional thatched roof made with the leaves of a local palm species known as the royal palm tree, Manicaria saccifera.
The goal this new facility is to offer a better learning experience for tourists and the Tortuguero Community. The Education Kiosk will feature an informative video, information panel displays and serve as a meeting facility for the local community.
STC was able to build this facility thanks to support from Tourism Cares and three French volunteers who dedicated a month of sweat and expertise.
— Update from the staff in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
From left to right: Ivan (STC staff), Alain, Jose (STC staff), Rene and Robert