Sea turtle released in Florida to compete in Tour de Turtles

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MARATHON, Fla. (AP) — A juvenile green sea turtle that underwent multiple surgeries to remove cauliflower-like tumors was released last week off the Florida Keys with a satellite-tracking transmitter.

“Tortie” was treated at the Keys-based Turtle Hospital after being rescued last December. The turtle was unable to dive and suffering from fibropapillomatosis - a debilitating tumor-causing disease that develops from a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtle species around the world.

After Tortie’s tumors were removed, the reptile’s treatment included antibiotics, fluids, vitamins and a diet of mixed seafood and greens.

The turtle’s satellite tracker will be monitored as part of the 15th annual Tour de Turtles, an online “race” organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy that follows the long-distance migration of a contingent of sea turtles over three months.

“In addition to the educational aspect of the Tour de Turtles, we’re also learning about where these turtles are going and then can look and see if there are any threats that the turtles face in these areas,” said Dan Evans, senior research biologist with the conservancy.

Tortie, who was released Friday, is competing in the hard-shell turtles’ division that features about a dozen contestants, with tracking to begin Aug. 1.

“One sea turtle can make a difference, not only going back to the ocean and having baby sea turtles, but the bigger reach is helping people to care about sea turtles and our oceans,” said Bette Zirkelbach, the hospital’s general manager.