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Loggerhead sea turtle Ariel, named after the princess from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” makes her way back to the ocean after being fitted with a satellite telemetry transmitter to track her migration patterns. Credit: Disney

6 Fun Facts about the 12th Annual Tour De Turtles Event from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

Every year at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment (ASE) team release two loggerhead sea turtles into the ocean as part of the Tour de Turtles “migration marathon.” Tour de Turtles follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding ground. By learning more about the loggerheads and their journeys, researchers from STC and ASE can help raise awareness about the threats that face sea turtles each day. This year marked the 12thannual Tour de Turtles, and luckily, I was able to catch all of the action at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort!





 

6 – The Turtles Have Names…and a Mission!

This year, the two female loggerhead turtles were named Ariel and Ursula, in honor of The Little Mermaid’s 30thanniversary. Ursula is sponsored by the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and will swim to raise awareness about the threat of plastic debris. Ariel is co-sponsored by Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team, and will swim to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution. As they made their way toward the ocean, “Under the Sea” played over the loudspeakers- it was a very appropriate song!

5 – Tour de Turtles Does a LOT to Help Sea Turtles

Tour de Turtles follows the migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their feeding ground in order to study how far each one swims. The one to swim the furthest distance wins, but both turtles do their part in raising awareness. The data collected during Tour de Turtles helps researchers, conservationists, and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation methods and policies.

The event launched in 2008, and through 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” (David Godfrey, Executive Director of the STC). More information is available on the Tour de Turtles website at www.tourdeturtles.org.

Loggerhead sea turtle Ursula, named after the sea witch from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” starts her migration journey off the coast of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Credit: Disney

4 – Disney Aids in the Conservation Efforts

Mark Penning, Vice President of Disney’s ASE initiatives, explained how Disney’s 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 monitoring helps ensure that the resort remains a special place for nesting sea turtles, further research, and conservation efforts.

Since Tour de Turtles began, 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. David Godfrey remarked how Disney has been an invaluable partner to the STC for twelve years, and that “with Disney’s support of the Tour de Turtles program, we have learned new information vital to the protection of sea turtles in Florida.”





 

3 – Guests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort Can Get Involved

Vero Beach is one of the most important turtle-nesting habitats in the western hemisphere. On the morning of the loggerhead release (which took place on Saturday, July 27th this year), Disney’s Vero Beach Resort hosted family activities focusing on sea turtle conservation, showing guests ways that they can help protect sea turtles (one of the biggest ways is to reduce the use of plastic). 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.

2 – The Sea Turtles are Tracked and Studied

Satellite transmitters are attached to the shells of the sea turtles, and the transmitters send back important data about the sea turtles’ migration habits. This information helps researchers and scientists in their efforts to maintain the turtle population. Before the event, guests had the chance to see the turtles getting fitted with their satellite telemetry transmitters. The sea turtles are tracked for approximately three months as they race to complete their turtle marathon. This confirms the statement that was repeated by many during Saturday’s event: saving sea turtles is also a marathon, not a sprint!

Conservation Biologist Rachel Smith from Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment explains to guests what’s involved with taking inventory of sea turtle nests along five miles of beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Credit: Disney

1 – You Can Learn More about Sea Turtle Hatchlings

Guests at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort also had the chance to see sea turtle hatchlings, after an inventory was taken of recently hatched nests along the beach. These hatchlings were released into the ocean after Ariel and Ursula had departed for their journeys (though most of the hatchlings needed a little guidance from Disney Cast Members to enter the ocean safely). It was very cute and reminded everyone in attendance that we need to do all we can to protect these hatchlings and their homes.

Click here for our Instagram Story to see video and photos from the morning’s events!



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About Arielle Tuan

Arielle is a South Florida local who has had some major magical moments happen at Disney World. It started when her family would take drives there every few months, and she and her sister would pretend the Magic Kingdom was their backyard. After graduating college, she worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a Professional Internship for six months; her role as a Conservation Education Presenter allowed her to recruit “wilderness explorers” by educating guests all over the park. After a successful six months of creating Disney magic, she completed Grad School at John’s Hopkin’s University with a Master’s Degree in Museum Studies. During a celebratory trip to Disney World as a new Annual Passholder, her longtime boyfriend Eric proposed to her on the attraction Soarin.’It was this final magical moment that cemented her love of Disney, and established Epcot as her second favorite park (after Animal Kingdom, of course). She got married two years later at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and has been checking off Disney experiences ever since (visiting Disneyland in California, attending D23, and exploring Disneyland Paris). Despite her degree, Arielle’s main passion is sharing her love of Disney through writing. She has since written two books about her experiences working for Disney through the publisher Theme Park Press and has maintained a Disney/Lifestyle blog since 2016. Arielle can’t wait to continue experiencing Disney with her Prince Eric, and showing others why the magic of Disney is so special!