About 1,000 people gathered in the Florida Keys Friday to applaud the release of a rehabilitated juvenile green sea turtle fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter to join an online “race.”
“St. Thomas,” a 35-pound male, and 15 other sea turtles are to participate in Tour de Turtles online educational competition that officially begins Aug. 1 and is organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The unique “tour” follows the long-distance migration of different species of sea turtles and collects location, swim speed and sometimes ocean depth data from their satellite transmitters.
“St. Thomas” was found floating offshore of the Keys last October covered in Fibropapilloma tumors, caused by a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world. A veterinarian at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital surgically removed the tumors and the reptile fully recovered.
“St. Thomas” is the smallest and the only rehabilitated turtle racing. Each Tour de Turtles participant is associated with a cause and “St. Thomas” is helping to raise awareness about water quality protection.
“The importance of the Tour de Turtles is to be able to do research to find out where these turtles are going, and that enables us to better protect these turtles both in-water and on nesting beaches,” said Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with Sea Turtle Conservancy. “
The public can track the progress of the 16 sea turtles at tourdeturtles.org through Oct. 31. The turtle that covers the most distance is declared the winner.
Competitors have been or will be released off Florida’s Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean including Cuba.
The Turtle Hospital has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years.