Although turtles have never really been known for their exceptional speed, the Great Turtle Race is on! The third-annual event follows eleven leatherback sea turtles migrating from their feeding areas in Canada to their breeding and nesting areas in the Caribbean. The turtles are tagged with high-tech tracking devices to follow their 3,700-mile trek.
The two-week online race begins today, and simulates the monumental journey the turtles have already made. The name of the game is raising awareness and money for the critically endangered species. Sponsored by Conservation International, National Geographic, and the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, the race has also captured the attention of musicians and celebrities—rock bands R.E.M. and Pearl Jam both sponsored turtles, and several Olympic gold medalists will act as “coaches” for the contestants. Companies and schools can pay to sponsor racers as well.
Leatherback sea turtles are the largest turtles on Earth, sometimes growing to more than 2,000 pounds. They feed primarily on jellyfish, and are constantly in danger of threats such as accidental capture by fishing boats and swallowing plastic bags mistaken for jellyfish. Scientists are using the satellite tracking devices in an attempt to make the turtles’ long migration safer. But this technology does not come cheap, and that’s where the Great Turtle Race comes in.
The virtual race is an innovative attempt to draw attention to the plight of the leatherbacks by attracting people to the Web site to participate. The site features additional information about sea turtles, an interactive race map, daily race updates, and more.