On Monday, the world, via the Internet, can track the route of 11 sea turtles as they paddle between their Playa Grande nesting grounds on the northern coast of Guanacaste and the Galapagos Islands, where they remain the rest of the year.
The well-publicized race, sponsored by 10 bigname corporations ranging from Dreyer’s Ice Cream to Travelocity, Yahoo and West Marine, as well as Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), will run through April 29.
Each turtle’s movements will be broadcast on the event’s official Web site, www.greatturtlerace.com.
The site – now live – also offers turtle information, lesson plans for teachers and an opportunity for interested parties to donate money to the cause of protecting the beach at Playa Grande.
“One of the wonderful things about this event is that it allows us to engage the public in conservation with upbeat messages,” said Roderic Mast, vice-president of one of the race’s organizers, Conservation International, a U.S.-based nonprofit group.
The race is billed by sponsors as “a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.”
In January and February, each of 11 turtles was outfitted with a name and a satellite tag, which transmits important data including geolocation, water temperature and water depth to satellites in space, which then relay the data to computer servers in the U.S. in real time.
Such information, according to Conservation International, will enable scientists and managers to develop innovative conservation strategies, while helping the public to better understand the many challenges faced by turtles during the voyage.
The race stirred a bit of controversy last week, when National University (UNA) biology professor Freddy Pacheco publicly criticized the event, stating that it sought to “make the turtles an object of commercial promotion,” and questioning the “molestation” of turtles for research which he said already exists.