The Caribbean’s Tour de Turtles 

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One world-famous Tour just concluded, with almost 200 entrants traversing the entirety of France. 

Another Tour just began, half a world away; but this one is far, far bigger, spanning the entire Caribbean and beyond. 

Except the participants don’t even know they’re in the race. 

The Tour de Turtles has officially begun, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “race” that follows the movements of critically endangered sea turtles across the Caribbean Basin. 

The Tour, which first launched in 2008, “is a fun, educational journey through the science, research and geography of sea turtle migration using satellite telemetry,” according to the Gainesville, Fla.-based Sea Turtle Conservancy. 

It starts each year on Aug. 1, following the journeys of turtles fitted with satellite trackers from nesting beaches in the Caribbean. 

It’s divided into two flights: leatherback turtles and non-leatherbacks (chelonians). 

The tour kicked off in earnest last week at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, where the STC, in partnership with Four Seasons and the Nevis Turtle Group, holds an annual Sea Turtle Week. 

Brownie following her release at Pinneys Beach at the Four Seasons Nevis.

This year’s Four Seasons Nevis event, which included nightly “turtle walks” on typical nesting beaches on the island, led to two turtles being tagged, released and then tracked: a hawksbill turtle named Brownie and a hawksbill turtle called Splash. 

And Brownie is already in the lead, having departed Nevis and already made its way north of Puerto Rico. Splash, on the other hand, seems to be remaining in the waters around Nevis for further nesting. 

The current standings.

“It’s just for fun — they don’t know they’re in the race, but they’re raising awareness,” says David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, who was in Nevis with a research team for the event. 

In the leatherback category, a turtle named Big Blue (supported by Atlantis Paradise Island), has already traveled nearly 2,000 miles since the start of the Tour de Turtles, journeying from the Caribbean waters off Costa Rica all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The “winning” turtle is the one who has swum the furthest distance during the migration marathon, which lasts another three months. 

Tracking of sea turtles has shed enormous light on the endangered creatures over more than a half century, from nesting patterns to migration. 

And it’s helped to shine the spotlight on the need to protect these marvelous, mysterious sea creatures, who face continued threats, both from humans who hunt them for food and shells to the ongoing menace of climate change. 

“While we may not know the outcome of the race, one thing is certain: saving sea turtles is a marathon, not a sprint,” the STC says. 

For more, visit the Tour de Turtles

 

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