The annual educational outreach program organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy is intended to raise awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival.
“The Tour de Turtles is an online educational program where, starting August 1, we’re tracking 19 turtles from Florida, Panama, Costa Rica and Nevis,” said Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
“It’s the idea that we’re tracking which turtle swims the furthest distance over three months,” Evans added.
Dubbed “Lucky Pulse” by her rescuers for a pulse-like marking on her head, the Keys turtle is swimming to raise awareness about her own affliction. She was found entangled in fishing trap line and covered with fibropapilloma — debilitating tumors that develop from a herpes-like virus that affects green sea turtles in Florida and around the world.
After the tumors’ removal, Lucky Pulse’s recovery included whole blood transfusions, breathing treatments, a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fluids, vitamins and a healthy diet of mixed seafood and greens. She weighed 35 pounds Friday.
“Sea turtles are the oldest animal known to man; they were on our planet when dinosaurs roamed our land — they were in our oceans,” said Bette Zirkelbach, general manager of the Turtle Hospital.
“They’re an indicator species, so they are the canary in the coal mine for everything that is happening with our marine ecosystems. We need to pay attention —what’s happening to sea turtles is going to affect all life,” Zirkelbach said.
Several hundred Florida Keys residents and visitors broke out in applause after the turtle swam away from Sombrero Beach, back into her saltwater home.
The Tour de Turtles features two divisions — the fast and far-swimming leatherback sea turtles whose division began on World Sea Turtle Day, June 16, and hard-shell sea turtles like Lucky Pulse. The hard-shell division commences Aug. 1 and continues through Oct. 31.
The turtle that covers the most distance in its division is declared that group’s winner. The public can monitor the forward progress of the sea turtles at tourdeturtles.org.
Since its inception in 2008, Tour de Turtles competitors have been released off U.S. coastlines into the Atlantic Ocean as well as Panama, Costa Rica, and various Caribbean habitats.
The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for more than 35 years.
Story: Sea Turtle Released in the Florida Keys to Join Tour de Turtles Online Race
Locator: Marathon, Florida Keys
Video: Spot to match this story to be uploaded to FTP servers around 1:45 p.m. Friday, July 23. B-roll. Frame grab of Tour de Turtles website. SOTs with Dan Evans, senior research biologist with Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Bette Zirkelbach, general manager of Turtle Hospital.
Video source: Florida Keys News Bureau
Folder: News Video