Paris - What the Tour de France does for cycling, Contiki hopes the 2015 Tour de Turtles will do for conservation by helping to bring awareness to a very worthy cause.
Meet the beautiful Tiki. She's a hawksbill sea turtle and Contiki's sponsored entrant in this very special race, the 2015 Tour de Turtles.
Named courtesy of a competition held by Contiki on their Facebook page, Tiki will be representing TreadRight and Contiki in the Tour de Turtles and swimming to raise awareness about sea turtle poaching.
Tiki is a great representative for this important cause because hawksbill sea turtles like her are one of the most at risk species of sea turtle when it comes to threats from poaching, and Tiki herself is no exception. In fact, when the amazing team at the Sea Turtle Conservancy came upon Tiki as she was preparing to nest on the beach of Tortuguero, Costa Rica, she had unknowingly chosen a very poor place to lay her eggs.
Under the light of a full moon, Tiki came onto the beach near the Tortuguero airport and the mouth of a river. The nearby river provided poachers easy access to her and her nest, and put the Sea Turtle Conservancy team on high alert. It is not uncommon for turtle traffickers to pull up in a boat, grab a turtle and throw it in the boat, then make off with them as they are trying to nest.
Hawksbill sea turtles are highly sought after for their beautiful gold and brown shell, which are used to make jewellery, ornaments and decorative items. As a result, hawksbill populations have declined by a shocking 90 per cent over the course of the last century.
To help ensure Tiki's nest went undetected by those looking to steal her eggs, once she was safely in the hands of the Sea Turtle Conservancy's care, the researchers carefully disguised her nest and tracks in hopes that poachers won't be able to find it.
This nesting season researchers at the Tortuguero Sea Turtle Conservancy centre have only come across a handful of hawksbills thus far. The good news is the Sea Turtle Conservancy remains hopeful that Tiki will lay even more eggs as it is still quite early in the Tortuguero hawksbill nesting season.
While in the Sea Turtle Conservancy's care following her nesting, Tiki was outfitted with her tracking device. Known as a Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT), this satellite transmitter will transmit Tiki's whereabouts every time she surfaces. Using these ping points, researchers are able to see where and how far Tiki swims.
While this is great for generating Tour de Turtles race results, the real aim in fitting sea turtles like Tiki with these devices is to learn more about their migration patterns, feeding habits and nesting tendencies.
What we currently know about sea turtle habits is limited. Because of this, researchers, conservationists and officials encounter difficulty when it comes to determining how best to protect the places that are so crucial to their survival.
By gathering information from the tracking devices, researchers are beginning to gain a clearer picture of what a sea turtle's life is really like, and are therefore better equipped to help them.
“Tiki was a very special turtle for us to release publicly because people who visit Tortuguero almost never get the chance to see a hawksbill turtle, especially up-close during the day like this,” explains David Godfrey, Executive Director, Sea Turtle Conservancy. “STC has only satellite tracked a handful of hawksbills from Tortuguero in the past, so it will be very interesting to see where Tiki travels.”
If you want to see where Tiki is hanging out at the moment, be sure to check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy's turtle tracker.