A rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle is off to the races following her release from a Florida Keys Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital. The sea turtle named “Maisy” will participate in a long-distance online race that follows the migration of sea turtles over three months.
The Tour de Turtles, an annual project organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, is intended to raise awareness about sea turtles and threats to their survival.
Maisy was rescued almost a year ago off the Lower Keys suffering from fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like virus affecting sea turtles around the world. Turtle Hospital staff’s treatment included multiple tumor removal surgeries, administering antibiotics, and a healthy diet of seafood and greens and Maisy is swimming to raise awareness about these conditions.
A satellite tracking transmitter was epoxied to Maisy’s shell before she left from Marathon’s Sombrero Beach into the Atlantic Ocean. Since her release last week Maisy has traveled 81 km (50 miles) at an average speed of 0.48 kph (0.30 mph).
The reptile is the first of nine hard-shell turtles to be fitted with a satellite transmitter. The others will be released off Florida by the end of July, according to Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Their tracking and “race” is to begin Aug. 1 and concludes Oct. 31.
“Beyond the educational aspect and the awareness is the science behind it,” said Evans. “So especially for Maisy — Maisy’s the first hybrid sea turtle we’ve ever tracked, and she is a cross between a green sea turtle and a hawksbill sea turtle – so for her, it’s gonna be really interesting to see if she goes into habitat that is used by hawksbills or habitat that is used by green turtles.”
This year’s Tour de Turtles features two competitive divisions – hard-shell sea turtles like Maisy and leatherback sea turtles that typically swim faster and farther. The turtle that covers the most distance in each Tour de Turtles division is declared that group’s winner. [APNEWS]