16th Annual Tour de Turtles Officially Kicks Off at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

On July 29, researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney Conservation released two sea turtles at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort as part of the 16th annual Tour de Turtles “migration marathon.” Tour de Turtles is a fun, educational event that follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding grounds and, ultimately, provides scientific data on how best to protect their species.

The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and Disney Cruise Line are each sponsoring a turtle this year. Tour de Turtles brings together a team of researchers from the STC and Disney Conservation annually to undertake a daunting mission – using satellite telemetry to track two female turtles to determine where and how far they swim during the migration season.

Each turtle swims to raise awareness about various threats to sea turtle survival. The turtle to swim the furthest distance will win the Tour de Turtles race.

“Disney’s commitment to sea turtle conservation in Vero Beach spans 20 years, and we are very proud to have recently watched our 1.5 millionth sea turtle hatchling leave the nest and shuffle its way to the ocean,” said Mark Penning, Vice President of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment. “Southeast Florida hosts one of the largest nesting aggregations of loggerhead sea turtles, making up to 40 percent of the global loggerhead population. The team has recorded more than 20,000 sea turtle nests on our survey route since the program began.”

The data collected during Tour de Turtles helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation and management. Since the launch of the event in 2008, STC and Disney have collaborated to study29 sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters and released from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Continuing its commitment to strengthen youth education programs in port communities around the world, Disney Cruise Line proudly supported local students from Club Esteem from Melbourne, Florida, to participate in this year’s event. DCF also has directed more than $5.1 million to support global sea turtle conservation efforts.

“Disney is a fantastic collaborator,” said David Godfrey, STC Executive Director. “Disney’s commitment to conservation, passion for environmental education, and effectiveness at communicating with audiences have made the Tour de Turtles a fun and successful program since it was launched over a decade ago.”

In addition to Tour de Turtles, the Disney Conservation team has dedicated nearly 19,000 hours to studying and monitoring sea turtle nests during the summer nesting season along the five-mile coastline at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. From approximately May to October, Disney Vacation Club members and resort guests also have the opportunity to assist the team by joining outings to observe real-time sea turtle research while learning how they can take action to protect sea turtles. So far this year, the Disney Conservation team has a record-breaking number of nests along their survey route – nearly 2,000 by August, well above the average 1,500 normally counted in an entire season.

Tour de Turtles is a research and education program of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Disney’s support is just one example of bringing Disney Planet Possible to life by taking action to make a happier, healthier planet possible for all. To learn more and follow the turtles’ migration, visit the Tour de Turtles website at www.tourdeturtles.org.
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PHOTO: © Disney's Vero Beach Resort. All Rights Reserved.

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