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MARATHON (CBSMiami) — Over 1,000 spectators gathered Friday to cheer the release of two sea turtles from differing species, who were rescued and rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital.
Both were fitted with satellite tracking transmitters and returned to the ocean to become part of the Tour de Turtles, an annual event organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy that follows the long-distance migration of different species of sea turtles.
“Little Money,” a 365-pound mature female green sea turtle, and “Coco,” a 215-pound male loggerhead, joined a group of some 17 turtles that will “race” Aug. 1 – Oct. 31 and be tracked online.
Both turtles were found floating offshore of the Keys, and treated for gastrointestinal issues with intravenous nutrition, broad-spectrum antibiotics and a healthy diet of fish and squid.
Although “Little Money” nuzzled thick grass beds close to the shoreline, the hospital staff, assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard, decided to relocate the large reptile into deeper waters about two hours after the release.
“Little Money” and “Coco” are the only rehabilitated turtles in the Tour de Turtles, signifying the importance of being able to observe turtles’ progress once they are released back into the wild.
“We’re learning where the turtles from Florida are spending their time when they’re not nesting,” said Dan Evans, research biologist for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, adding that it is rare to track an adult male sea turtle, since normally they do not return to land after they hatch out of their shoreside nests.
“One of the key things is we are really seeing that rehabilitated turtles from the sea turtle hospital in the Florida Keys are acting normal and surviving after being released and being treated,” Evans said. “So it does make an impact for these turtles that are being treated.
“It’s important to protect sea turtles because they are part of multiple ecosystems — so they’re part of the marine system, they’re part of the beach system, and humans depend on those systems to be healthy — healthy turtles, healthy ecosystems, healthy humans,” Evans said.
The public can track the progress of the 17 sea turtles at tourdeturtles.org. The turtle that covers the most distance is declared the winner.
Competitors have been released off Florida coastlines as well as off Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba and other Caribbean locales.
(©2018 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)