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) is excited to have our friends at Atlantis, Paradise Island sponsor a turtle in this year’s Tour de Turtles for the fourth year in a row! The turtles they sponsored the last two years, Calypso Blue I and Calypso Blue II, won their respective marathons and traveled over 6,400 miles both years. Atlantis is hoping the streak will continue this year with its turtle, leatherback Calypso Blue III.
The lucky name originated from a Facebook naming contest. Debra Erickson, executive director of the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, said if Calypso Blue III wins this year “it would be like winning the Triple Crown.”
Atlantis is a resort and water park in The Bahamas that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It encompasses 14 lagoons and eight million gallons of salt water that contain more than 50,000 aquatic animals as well as caves, coral formations and underwater ruins that showcase many types of marine life from sea turtles and sharks to manta rays and moray eels.
Atlantis uses its vast collection for education and conservation efforts through the Atlantis Blue Project. “The Atlantis Blue Project started over seven years ago with the goal of using scientific research, education and public outreach to help protect our oceans,” Erickson said. “The project’s focus today is saving sea species and their habitats throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean seas.”
Atlantis’ involvement in Tour de Turtles is part of that conservation effort. Erickson said that after 15 years of sea turtle display, breeding and conservation, Atlantis began to look for a way to expand its sea turtle conservation efforts through both research and public education and communications.
It was determined that Tour de Turtles was the perfect program to reach those goals, according to Erickson, because it “enables scientists to collect invaluable data on sea turtle migration while at the same time educating the public on the challenges that sea turtles face from ocean debris to boat strikes.”
Atlantis has continued to sponsor a turtle in the marathon for the past four years because of the program’s high level of engagement, Erickson said. It enables many individuals to follow sea turtles’ migration on a daily basis and spread the information through social media as well as allowing scientists to use the data collected to better understand and manage sea turtle species.
Erickson said, “We are looking forward to this year’s Tour de Turtles and seeing the results at the end of the race. The program allows Atlantis to continue its commitment to sea turtle conservation and gives us an opportunity to engage our guests and involve them in helping to preserve sea turtles.”
In addition to Tour de Turtles, Atlantis actively participates in other sea turtle conservation efforts. Each year, Atlantis’ Aquarists collect over 1,200 eggs laid by female turtles on its beach, place the eggs in replica nests at its Fish Hospital and release the young out on the beach once they hatch.