Disney’s Vero Beach Resort launched its 12th annual Tour de Turtles this week. The event brings together researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment (ASE) team to raise awareness about the threats sea turtles face. On Saturday morning, the team released two loggerhead sea turtles – Ursula and Ariel each outfitted with tracking beacons.

Tour de Turtles is a fun, educational journey that follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding ground in order to determine how far each swims. The one to swim the furthest distance wins.

Ursula is sponsored by the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and will swim to raise awareness about the threat of plastic debris. Ariel, co-sponsored by Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team, will swim to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution.

“Disney’s commitment to sea turtle conservation along Vero Beach, one of the most important turtle-nesting habitats in the western hemisphere, goes back more than a decade,” said Mark Penning, Vice President of Disney’s ASE initiatives. “Our Conservation team conducts daily surveys along the nearly five miles of sea turtle nesting beach surrounding Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in order to identify, mark and monitor sea turtle nests, as well as determine the number of sea turtle hatchlings. This helps us ensure the resort continues to be a special place for nesting sea turtles and for the conservation science, protection and outreach needed to ensure their survival.”

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 partnered to study twenty loggerhead sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters and released from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The Disney Conservation Fund has also directed more than $3.5 million to help global sea turtle efforts and ensure a healthy population.

“Disney has been an invaluable partner to STC these last 12 years,” said David Godfrey, Executive Director of STC. “With Disney’s support of the Tour de Turtles program, we have learned new information vital to the protection of sea turtles in Florida. Through the Tour de Turtles, STC has identified different foraging behaviors and regions, seasonal movements based on water temperature, and identified new areas that should be classified as critical habitat for loggerhead turtles.”

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In addition to Tour de Turtles, Disney Vacation Club members and guests staying at the resort during this time also have the opportunity to join the team on turtle conservation and outings to observe the sea turtles and learn ways they can get involved.

To learn more and follow the turtles’ migration, visit the Tour de Turtles website at www.tourdeturtles.org.

On location photos courtesy Disney and Erica Hollinger.