Over 1,000 spectators gathered at Brevard County, Florida this past Sunday to participate in the 8th annual Tour de Turtles, where they got to cheer on a couple of speedy sea turtles, who set off to compete with 11 other lovable giants in a race around the world.
Slow And Steady
The checkered flag waved yesterday, officially starting the Tour de Turtles, as two sea turtles were released off the coast of Melbourne Beach. Hundreds of children cheered them on as they carefully inched their way down the sandbar, taking a moment for dramatic pause at the water’s edge before slipping into the Atlantic Ocean.
Myrtle and Dash—two loggerhead sea turtles from Melbourne Beach—will soon join 11 other rivals in a 3-month race around the world, with their scaly competition hailing from Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Vero Beach, Marathon Key, Anna Maria Island, Nevis, and Panama.
The winner will be the turtle who swims the farthest distance, which will be determined using satellite technology in three months, but each contestant’s progress will be followed closely for years. You can watch each reptile’s progress here.
Keeping a Close Eye
Each of the 13 sea turtles were equipped with instruments that will relay information to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather satellites. Researchers, from both the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the University of Central Florida will then be able to monitor the sea turtles’ progress—both for the sakes of the Tour de Turtles race, as well as for further understanding the migratory patterns and life cycles of the endangered species.
All for a Good Cause
The Tour de Turtles started eight years ago as an event organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, as a way to spread love for these animals, as well as raise awareness for their sharp and steady decline in numbers.
According to researchers at the Conservancy, thousands upon thousands of sea turtles hatch from around the world every year. However, only about 1,000 of these baby sea turtles will survive long enough to become adults, as the vast majority of them get gobbled up by sea birds and other underwater creatures.
But that isn’t the worst part. Sea turtles have been an endangered species on the brink of extinction for some time now, mostly thanks to human intervention. Incidents such as boat strikes, choking on plastic debris, climate change, and commercial fishing (among many others) are all leading causes for such a sharp decline in their numbers. Commercial fishing alone either kills or seriously injures more than 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks every year.
For your bike, some lights to light the way: