By Guest Blogger Jacqui Clark
On July 29th, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort held The 10th Annual Tour De Turtles event. Known as a “migration marathon,” the Sea Turtle Conservancy released two female Loggerhead Turtles who will provide invaluable migratory information about these fascinating animals. Satellite transmitters were attached to the backs of each sea turtle. The transmitters will track these amazing creatures as they make their way to their foraging grounds. The migration distance of the sea turtles will reach hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles. Each year, the turtles are given special Disney names. This year, the theme came from the “Cars 3” animated movie. Appropriately named, Cruz and Sally are sure to show us all that “Life IS a highway!”
Did you know that Loggerhead Turtles are the third largest species of sea turtles? The largest is the Leatherback, followed by the Green Sea Turtle. Speaking of size, Cruz and Sally each weighed between 300 – 350 pounds. Throughout their lives, they will feast on copious amounts of crabs, clams, etc…basically any sea life with a shell. When an adult female nests, she will lay about 150 eggs. However, only around 1 in 1000 eggs/hatchlings will make it to adulthood. This year, a few Loggerhead hatchlings were released from the beach to begin their life in the “big blue world” as well! Follow Cruz and Sally’s adventure at www.tourdeturtles.org
The race itself was so exciting. Prior to the start, you could see that Cruz and Sally were revving up their turtle engines. First out of the gate was Sally. She was a little slow to start, but soon made her way into the Atlantic. Cruz was next, a bit faster towards the water. The crowd cheered them along and the excitement was palpable.
There were multiple stations on the beach for onlookers to visit. Each station provided an interactive learning experience for children and adults. My own children were very impressed with how fun each station was, as they acquired great information about the lives of sea turtles.
One station featured the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) which is a fishing net that is required to be used by all shrimp trawling vessels in the United States. This unique device allows the turtles to swim up and out of the fishing nets. A section of bars prohibits larger sea life such as the turtles, sharks and dolphins from getting caught in the fishing nets. The bars actually bounce them up and out of the net and they are freed. This practice has allowed many large sea animals to be saved, and has even helped to increase the population of some species.
Tour De Turtles is Disney’s flagship conservation event. Walt Disney himself was committed to conservation, and there’s no doubt that he would be happy with all of Disney’s conservation initiatives. A favorite slogan for Disney conservation? “Reverse the decline. Increase the time.” Events like Tour De Turtles increase the time families spend engaged in nature. As a result, our education can reduce the decline of things negatively impacting our planet. Speaking of conservation, there are two amazing little dogs named Captain Ron and Dory who aid in the efforts to protect sea turtles. These dutiful dogs have been specially trained to locate sea turtle nests on the 5 miles of beach. Once they’ve done that important job, the nests are flagged for protection.
To learn more about initiatives like this, follow Disney’s Animals Science and Environment on Facebook.