Most of us are familiar with the Tour de France whether we are avid bike riders or not. However, I’m guessing that not too many people are familiar with the “Tour de Turtles.” That’s right, not exactly a household name yet, but the Tour de Turtles is an event that is quickly gaining recognition. Interestingly enough, I was not familiar with this event until I read about it in my local newspaper here in Florida.
So, what exactly is the Tour de Turtles? Well, this event is an annual migration marathon that started back in 2008. The “marathon” tracks sea turtles at sea in order to learn more about their behavior and migration habits. In addition, the marathon aims to raise awareness about the various threats that sea turtles face. Also, the Tour de Turtles encourages positive stewardship to the sea turtles ocean and coastal habitats. All of this benefits the sea turtles by helping them survive.
The sea turtles are tracked through a method called satellite telemetry. Basically, this involves attaching a transmitter on the back of the sea turtle. When I first heard about it, I was a bit concerned about the transmitter being attached to the turtle. Also, I wasn’t sure if the transmitter was going to be attached permanently, but the transmitter is temporary. It falls off safely in about a year or two. So, the good news is that the sea turtle is not living with a transmitter attached to her back forever! And the transmitter does not interfere with their movement. Plus, the researchers learn lots about their behaviors, migratory patterns, location of their habitats, etc. In turn, this information will help protect sea turtles. In addition, the information is uploaded to interactive maps located on the Tour de Turtles website. This gives people the opportunity to track the sea turtles. So, for anyone who has kids (or for the inner kid in you), nephews, nieces, or grandchildren, this is the fun part (and very educational). The link will be provided at the end of this post.
Sea turtles face many challenges that affect their survival with an estimated one out of a 1,000 to 10,000 hatchlings surviving to adulthood. Not surprising, many of the problems are caused by humans. These “threats” are emphasized during the marathon. Each turtle is swimming to raise awareness for a cause. For instance, Bubbles is swimming to raise awareness about the problem of plastic debris in the ocean. Many sea turtles are killed due to ingestion of plastic bags and fishing lines. On the other hand, Crystal is swimming to raise awareness about poor water quality. And Squirt is swimming to raise awareness about the threat of oil spills. These are just a few of the sea turtles that are swimming in the marathon. There are a total of fifteen sea turtles, representing four different types of species swimming for various causes.
This is an awesome short video (about two minutes long) that shows Bubbles being released into the ocean (click onto You Tube directly to watch). The kids are so happy to see the turtle being set free. Each sea turtle is released at different locations at various times. However, the race doesn’t start until all turtles are released. This gives each sea turtle an equal opportunity to win the marathon. Whoever goes the furthest distance wins the race.
These are some of the problems that threaten the sea turtles:
- Commercial Longline Fisheries
- Water Quality
- Invasive Species Predation
- Plastic Debris
- Light Pollution
- Turtle Hunters (Meat Consumption)
- Climate Change
- Commercial Trawl Fisheries
- Sea Walls
- Oil Spills
- Egg Poachers
- Illegal Sea Turtle Shell Trade
- Native Species Predation
- Beach Renourishment
For more information on these problems, click onto the link I have provided below to the Tour de Turtles official website. The official race start date is Monday August 15, 2011. If you have kids nearby, don’t forget to get them involved. This is an opportunity for kids to learn all about the many issues facing sea turtles and our environment. However, this is going to be fun and educational for folks of all ages! This is not a one-day event, so if you read this post after the start date, be sure and check out the site anyway. As a matter of fact, the race will last about three months! As previously mentioned, whoever swims the furthest distance will be the winner. Moreover, we will all be winners when we have compassion for our environment. It will benefit everyone. After all, if we destroy our marine life and oceans, we destroy ourselves. Thanks for caring.
The link to the Tour de Turtles website is: www.tourdeturtles.org