Earlier today at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney Conservation Team Wildlife released two sea turtles as part of the 15th annual Tour de Turtles “migration marathon.” Tour de Turtles is a fun, educational initiative that follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding grounds. Each turtle swims to raise awareness about various threats to sea turtle survival.
The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and Disney Cruise Line are each sponsoring a turtle this year, whose names, Neytiri and Ronal, are inspired by the upcoming premiere of “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Through the use of satellite telemetry, STC will track these two turtles along with 19 others to determine how far and where sea turtles swim during their annual migration. The one to swim the furthest distance wins Tour de Turtles!
“Disney’s commitment to sea turtle conservation in Vero Beach spans almost 20 years, and we are very proud to have recently watched our 1 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 (ASE). “Southeast Florida hosts one of the largest nesting aggregations of loggerhead sea turtles in the world. To ensure Disney’s Vero Beach Resort continues to provide the best habitat for nesting sea turtles, Disney Conservation Team Wildlife conducts daily surveys on the resort’s beachfront to identify, mark and monitor sea turtle nests while engaging guests in our conservation efforts.”
The data collected during Tour de Turtles helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation methods and policies. Since the launch of the event in 2008, STC and Disney have collaborated to study 26 loggerhead sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters and released from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The Disney Conservation Fund has also directed more than $4.7 million to help global sea turtle conservation.
“Since our very first Tour de Turtles, Disney has been an invaluable supporter of the event and our organization,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of STC. “In addition to learning new information about sea turtle behavior, Disney’s support has allowed us to develop new training programs for local students to learn about the tools, technology and techniques sea turtle scientists use every day.”
The Disney Conservation Fund recently awarded a grant to STC to develop two educational initiatives that will train Brevard County youth to become future stewards of the environment and sea turtle conservation. The Sea Turtle TECH (Technology Education Challenges Horizons) mentorship program and Conservation Career Training Program provide STEM-focused activities to introduce students from diverse and underserved communities to the fundamentals of protecting sea turtles. Students in these programs attended this year’s Tour de Turtles event to better understand how this and other outreach initiatives play a crucial role in protecting sea turtles.
In addition to Tour de Turtles, Disney Conservation Team Wildlife studies and monitors 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 sea turtle conservation team by joining outings to observe sea turtles while learning how they can protect sea turtles through their own daily actions.
Tour de Turtles is a research and education program of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and is an example of Disney Planet Possible at work. To learn more and follow the turtles’ migration, visit the Tour de Turtles website at www.tourdeturtles.org.