16th Annual Tour de Turtles Kicks Off at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort

16th Annual Tour de Turtles Kicks Off at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort blog header

“Kindly step all the way in, please, and make room for everyone. There’s no turning back now. Our tour begins here …” at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort!

The 16th Tour de Turtles is shaping up to be an epic journey for our two female sea turtles, fondly named Madame Leota and Harriet after characters played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Tiffany Haddish in the highly anticipated, frightfully fun film “Haunted Mansion,” now playing in theaters.

While Disney’s Haunted Mansion stars a woman and her son who enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters – Tour de Turtles brings together a team of researchers from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) and Disney Conservation with no less daunting of a mission – to use satellite telemetry to track two female turtles to determine how far they swim during the migration season and, ultimately, shed light on how to protect their species.

The turtles, sponsored by the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) and Disney Cruise Line, began their “migration marathon” yesterday morning from their nesting beaches at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to feeding grounds in The Bahamas, Caribbean and beyond.

Harriet and Madame Leota are “racing” alongside other sponsored sea turtles, each raising awareness about a threat to turtle survival like plastic pollution or beach lighting. The turtle to swim the furthest distance wins Tour de Turtles!

Beyond co-hosting the Tour de Turtles event, Disney has supported sea turtles for 20 years, and our team has recorded more than 20,000 sea turtle nests on our survey route since the program began, resulting in more than 1.5 million sea turtle hatchlings that have taken their first flipper strokes on our beaches. And 2023 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for sea turtles along this stretch of beach – while the team typically studies an average of 1,500 nests during the March through October season, they have counted more than 2,200 nests already this year!

This is an incredible conservation milestone made possible by 20,000 hours of surveying the five-mile stretch of beach at the Vero Beach Resort, connecting thousands of guests and the public to sea turtles in responsible and impactful ways, participating in a statewide network committed to standardized data collection, and conducting innovative research exploring our relationship with sea turtles and how to best protect them into the future.

The data collected during Tour de Turtles helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation methods and policies across Florida. Since 2008, STC and Disney have studied 29 sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters and released from Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Since 1986, Disney’s animal care teams have nursed more than 300 endangered sea turtles back to health and returned them to their home in the ocean.

To date, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed more than $5.1 million to sea turtle conservation efforts around the world. This support has helped leading nonprofit organizations collaborate with communities to grow appreciation and awareness for sea turtles, reduce threats to their survival and empower a global network to take actions to protect sea turtles in the future.

Did you know that sea turtles have been living on planet Earth since before the time of the dinosaurs? After decades of traveling the open ocean, female sea turtles return to the nesting grounds where they were hatched to lay their own eggs. Southeast Florida, where Vero Beach is located, is one of the most important turtle nesting habitats in the world.

But life is filled with danger for a sea turtle, especially a hatchling. That’s why the Disney Conservation team conducts daily surveys along the nearly five miles of sea turtle nesting beaches surrounding Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to identify, mark and monitor sea turtle nests, as well as determine the number of sea turtle hatchlings produced from these nests. This helps us ensure this Disney Vacation Club resort continues to be a special place for nesting sea turtles.

Tour de Turtles is a research and education program hosted by the Sea Turtle Conservancy and our support is just one way we’re bringing Disney Planet Possible to life by taking action to make a happier, healthier planet possible for all. To date, the Disney Conservation Fund has supported the critical work of nearly 600 nonprofit organizations – working together with communities to protect nature around the world.

To learn more and follow the turtles’ migration, visit the Tour de Turtles website at tourdeturtles.org. And be sure to watch “Haunted Mansion,” now in theaters. Bon voyage to our two happy haunts as they embark on their migration journey!