Ocean thrill: Turtle lovers turn out for ‘Tour’ kick-off

Life is not exactly a day at the beach for the momma sea turtles who lumber up out of the ocean at night this time of year to dig nests and lay their eggs in the sand before quietly slipping back into the surf. Their subsequent destinations would otherwise remain unknown were it not for the efforts of the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

In 2008, STC began tracking sea turtles through its annual Tour de Turtles: A Sea Turtle Migration Marathon, which enables researchers and the general public to follow the migration patterns of various types of sea turtle species from their nesting beaches to foraging grounds.

Last Saturday evening, a sold-out crowd of turtle enthusiasts gathered at the Barrier Island Center at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge for the annual Tour de Turtles Kick-off Social, to support STC research, education, training, advocacy and habitat protection efforts.

Guests bid on a large assortment of donated silent-auction items at tables indoors, and outside sat at oceanfront tables enjoying a buffet catered by Green Turtle.

“We’re tracking a male in the turtle marathon this year; a juvenile male named St. Thomas, rehabilitated at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon in the Florida Keys,” said Lexie Beach, STC communications coordinator.

In the wee hours of Friday and Saturday night, four local loggerhead turtles laid their eggs and were selected to be outfitted with satellite tracking devices. Volunteers kept watch over them until they were released to enthusiastic onlookers – two at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Saturday morning and two at Archie Carr on Sunday morning.

Over a two-week period, a total of 16 turtles will eventually enter the marathon from important nesting sites in the western hemisphere. Although their tracking begins immediately, and devices can ping up to two years, the official ‘race’ begins Aug. 1 and continues for three months.

The public is also encouraged to monetarily support turtles as a way of raising awareness to the various threats to their very survival.

This year’s Archie Carr loggerheads are Philanthropy Phyllis (beach erosion) and Lulu (oil spills and marine pollution); and the turtles sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund are Ariel (artificial light pollution) and Ursula (plastic/marine debris).

For more information or to view the tracking, visit tourdeturtles.org.

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