MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – A rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle, rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital, was fitted with a satellite-tracking transmitter and released from a beach Friday to join the Tour de Turtles, a marathon-like “race” that follows the long-distance migration of sea turtles over three months.

The annual educational project, organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, is intended to raise awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival.

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“Maisy” is swimming to raise awareness about her affliction when she was rescued, fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world. The reptile was rescued almost a year ago off Summerland Key and Turtle Hospital staff’s treatment included multiple tumor removal surgeries, administering antibiotics and a healthy diet of seafood and greens.

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.

Maisy is the first of the hard-shell turtles to be fitted with a satellite transmitter among nine to 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” begins August 1st and concludes October 31st.

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“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.”

The turtle that covers the most distance in each Tour de Turtles division is declared that group’s winner. The public can monitor competitors’ forward progress at tourdeturtles.org.

The Florida Keys’ Turtle Hospital has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for 34 years.

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