The 2013 sea turtle nesting season is over, and the results are in. This year, we had a record number of sea turtle nests on the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort!
Three species of sea turtles nest on the beach at the resort: loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles and leatherback sea turtles. In 2013, we broke our record for the most nesting green sea turtles on the stretch of beach monitored by the Disney’s Animal Programs team. An amazing 569 green sea turtle nests were documented. And it was our second highest year on record for loggerhead nesting, with 1,077 nests counted. We also counted 8 nests for the huge leatherback turtle. The number of nests is great news for the conservation of these endangered sea turtles.
Speaking of conservation, we also now have the results from the 2013 Tour de Turtles, a wonderful sea turtle conservation and research program. Two Disney-sponsored turtles, Carrie and Claire, both loggerheads, took part in the race.
Carrie came in fourth place, but she came in first place in the “Causes Challenge” — she was swimming to raise awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. In another first, Carrie came ashore twice in the same year to nest near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Her two nests resulted in 161 hatchlings each, for a total of 322 hatchlings!
Claire was not far behind, placing sixth in the Tour de Turtles and receiving an honorable mention in the “Causes Challenge” for raising awareness about the dangers of sea turtles ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. Claire’s nest had 99 hatchlings.
What an exciting year! And here’s to a successful 2014 sea turtle nesting season — we’ll be sure to tell you how it goes!
Remember, all of us can help sea turtles by taking action to reduce, reuse and recycle; by making sure that we dispose of trash properly; by turning off unnecessary lights that may be visible on nesting beaches; and by observing turtles and other wildlife from a safe distance, taking care not to disturb them or their habitats. To find out more about Disney’s conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation.
UPDATE 10/3: This just in! We inventoried Carrie’s first nest today (remember she nested twice), and it had a “monstrous” number of hatchlings—161 to be exact. This is our largest loggerhead nest this year!
It’s a boy . . . and a girl . . . and another boy . . . and another girl! Well, we don’t know exactly how many boy and girls there were (did you know that the sex of a baby sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest?), but we do know that Tour de Turtles loggerhead sea turtle mom Claire’s nest had 99 hatchlings.
Those of you who’ve been following our Tour de Turtles posts over the summer know that, in July, two Disney-sponsored sea turtles, Claire and Carrie (named for characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Monsters University“), who had laid their eggs the night before, returned to the sea at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles“, which follows the marathon migration of 12 sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.
Just a few days ago, Claire’s hatchlings emerged from their nest. We’re still awaiting the results of Carrie’s nests — in a Tour de Turtles first, she came ashore twice in the same year to nest near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. During nesting season, guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt the nest of a sea turtle that lays her eggs at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.
The adoption fee is directed through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) to sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida. This past nesting season, guests adopted nearly 200 turtle nests, resulting in more than $7,000 directed to the DWCF to support conservation of Florida’s sea turtles and their habitats this year.
Want to find out more about Disney’s sea turtle conservation efforts? Check out our new video.
Just a few weeks ago, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two giant loggerhead sea turtles returned to the sea after nesting on the beach. The turtles had been fitted with satellite transmitters to help with conservation efforts as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles,” which tracks the turtles to their foraging grounds.
Last week, one of those sea turtles returned to nest again near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Carrie, named for a character in the Disney•Pixar film “Monsters University,” was spotted by members of our turtle monitoring team who were surveying the beach for nesting turtles. Carrie was easy to spot — she is a “monstrously” large loggerhead turtle — and she was wearing her Tour de Turtles satellite transmitter.
Carrie is the first loggerhead to be documented nesting twice during the same Tour de Turtles race! Carrie laid her eggs exactly 14 days after her first clutch, and her second nest is within a half mile of her Tour de Turtles nest. How is that for being able to find your way back to your nesting beach!
What a year it has been for sea turtles! First, one of our Disney-sponsored 2011 Tour de Turtles sea turtles, Lightning McQueen, came back this summer to lay her eggs near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and now Carrie has a second nest in the same year. We also are on track for having a monstrously successful sea turtle nesting season. We have broken our 10-year record and have more green sea turtle nests (432 on our 7-kilometer stretch of beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort) as of last week, and we are on track to have the second highest year for loggerheads (1,039 nests as of last week). The record was set last year with 1,365. Will we break the record this year? Maybe Carrie knows the answer!
You can track Carrie, Claire (our other Disney-sponsored turtle), and all of the 2013 Tour de Turtles sea turtles online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
I first “met” Tamara, a cotton-top tamarin who lives in the forest in Colombia, South America, when she was still in her mom’s belly. Thirteen years later (a ripe old age for a cotton-top), she continues to amaze me. Cotton-tops usually give birth to twins, and she recently gave birth to her 12th litter and 22nd infant!
Over the years, Tamara has been a fantastic mom and family member. Thanks to her resourcefulness, Tamara’s family has continued to thrive in their forest home. And she has helped us to learn so much about cotton-top tamarins. For example, we had no idea how many infants a female in the wild could produce. Thanks to Tamara, we’ve had the opportunity at the conservation organization dedicated to cotton-tops, Proyecto Titi, to study all of her infants and learn so much about these fascinating animals. Luckily for Tamara, cotton-top moms don’t raise their babies all by themselves. The babies’ dad, brothers and sisters all help to take care of the babies.
This month at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we’re celebrating Tamara and rest of the cotton-tops, critically endangered monkeys found only in Colombia, where August 15 has been proclaimed a national holiday — the Day of the Cotton-Top Tamarin. If you visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you can find out about cotton-top tamarins’ favorite foods, how scientists locate them in the forest, and even how to do the cotton-top tamarin dance. Other highlights include face painters and caricature artists with designs featuring cotton-top tamarins created just for the celebration. And, take my word for it, the cotton-top tamarin cupcakes are too delicious to pass up.
Cotton-top tamarins and plastic bags actually have something in common. Proyecto Titi has taught women to crochet using plastic bags like the ones we bring home from the grocery store (what a great way to recycle and keep trash out of the forest!). They make these beautiful, colorful tote bags called eco-mochilas, which are sold at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purchasing an eco-mochila helps communities in Colombia protect forests that the cotton-top tamarins call home.
Last Saturday morning, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests connected with nature in a way that few people get to experience when they cheered on two giant, loggerhead sea turtles named for Disney characters – who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before – as they returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual “Tour de Turtles,” which follows the marathon migration of 11 sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds.
Each turtle in Tour de Turtles acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Carrie is raising awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. We can help by turning off unnecessary lights that may be visible on nesting beaches. Claire is raising awareness about the threat of plastic debris. Many turtles have been killed by swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic debris, including plastic bags and fishing lines. We can help by recycling and putting trash in appropriate containers.
Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy will track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry as they travel from their nesting beach to various feeding grounds. Using this technology, scientists learn about sea turtles’ habits at sea and the different migratory patterns of each species. This knowledge helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation actions and policies. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org. Lightning McQueen, a sea turtle sponsored by Disney from the 2011 Tour de Turtles, returned again this year to the beach near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to nest, and her eggs hatched just a few weeks ago with the baby turtles heading out to sea.
Of the nearly than $20 million that the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has distributed since the fund’s inception, more than $1 million has helped support sea turtle conservation around the world. Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt the nest of one of the sea turtles that lays her eggs at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, including Carrie’s and Claire’s. The adoption fee is directed through the DWCF to sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida.
The team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends celebrate and conserve turtles and tortoises every day. Over the years, for example, the Disney’s Animal Programs team has nursed more than 300 endangered sea turtles back to health and released them back to their home in the sea.
At Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, the Disney’s Animal Programs team monitors sea turtle nesting activity on several miles of beach near the resort, and examines what factors contribute to successful hatching of the sea turtle nests. Resort guests can get involved too. For example, kids can join Turtle Troop, a fun and educational experience that combines crafts and a walk on the beach to see a sea turtle nest up close.
I just returned from an inspiring trip to Colombia, South America, and am excited to tell you about it. As part of our conservation program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we are working to protect a critically endangered monkey, the cotton-top tamarin found only in Colombia. Proyecto Tití also works with local communities to reduce the number of cotton-top tamarins that are in the illegal pet trade. Their program teaches kids to keep “wildlife in the wild” and to say “No” to pet monkeys and “Yes” to building a special bond with their dogs or cats.
Of course, teaching the kids and their families how to keep their pets healthy is an important part of this, and representatives from the University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine came to Colombia as part of a pilot program that included providing vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and other medical care for the dogs and cats of Los Limites, a village that borders our cotton-top tamarin field site. Keeping the pets healthy also reduces the possibility of disease transmission to both the people and the wildlife in the area.
We also wanted to help kids and their families develop a new appreciation for their pets by helping kids understand how their dogs are smart and motivated to please. Disney’s animal care team members Marty MacPhee, Maggio Gonio, and Mauricio Saldarriaga helped create a program, which we piloted with a group of kids from Los Limites, on how to train your dog and learn about dog behavior. Mauricio traveled with me to Colombia to teach the program. Included were great activities that helped the kids learn how to decode dog behavior by watching the position of a dog’s ears and tail, and, of course, keeping an eye out for facial expressions and learning to speak “dog.” They really loved creating their own dog mask with moveable ears and acting out different dog behaviors. They really enjoyed playing the training game, trying to train each other to perform a specific behavior without using words. It really is hard to get someone to understand what you want when you can’t use words. But once the kids learned that the sound of a clicker means that you are correct, and that there is a tasty treat on the way, they found a new way to train their own dogs! Take a look at the short video clip of one of the children, Angie, training her dog, Congo. Be sure to look closely for the not-so-hidden Mickey hand on the end of the target stick!
At the end of the program, we had a graduation ceremony, and the children received diplomas for completing their first dog training class. They were so proud of everything they had accomplished. Seeing their smiling faces, and their heartfelt promise to keep training and caring for their dogs, makes me realize just how important programs like these are for kids who live in Los Limites. Helping people care for their dogs, so that they can appreciate just how much fun it is to have that special relationship with a pet, is not only good for people, but ultimately helps protect the wildlife of Colombia.
Guests tell us they love connecting with nature in our beautiful green spaces during their visits to the Walt Disney World Resort, so I’m especially excited to share some news and a fun video from our third annual Walt Disney World Holiday Bird Count, organized by our Disney’s Animal Programs team for cast members and their families. This year, thanks to Walt Disney World Community Relations, members of four Central Florida Girl Scout troops joined cast members to count 107 different bird species and over 16,000 individual birds! Holiday Bird Count participants spotted some new species this year: Virginia Rail, Sora and a Merlin, as well as 20 Bald Eagles! Highlights included spotting several Great Blue Herons high up in the trees keeping a watchful eye over their nests — two nests in one tree — and a Blue Jay that was mimicking a hawk vocalizing as he chased a squirrel!
The day-long event enabled birders of all skill levels to discover which birds are found in Central Florida in the winter. In addition to inviting local Girl Scouts, another new element this year was a Family Birding Festival, where the Girl Scouts and cast members’ kids participated in a variety of fun activities that helped them learn to recognize bird calls and discover the amazing adaptations of various bird species that enable birds to thrive in the wild. Children and adults also participated in a nature walk to identify birds in the area, and they got to meet some of the amazing birds that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Enjoy the video — and let us know if you see any birds that also live in your hometown.
Did you know?
Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has provided more than $6 million to support bird conservation around the world. In Florida, the DWCF has helped protect birds, including the Whooping Crane, Bald Eagle, Scrub Jay, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and Mangrove Cuckoo.
Our Holiday Bird Count is modeled after the Audubon Christmas bird count, which began in 1900.
Data collected in bird counts from year to year allows scientists to follow trends in bird populations and abundance over time. These trends help scientists focus their conservation efforts in key bird areas.
Nearly one third of the Walt Disney World Resort has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
An abundance of birds make their home in Florida year-round, and even more birds are here during the winter as they migrate from the north to Florida and beyond. You can find out more at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 8 as we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day.
We can help birds and other wildlife by disposing of waste properly, including recycling, to keep trash out of natural areas, and by observing birds and other wildlife from a safe distance and not feeding them “human” food, which is not healthy for them.
About the size of a squirrel and with a beautiful silky reddish-gold coat, the golden lion tamarin is truly one of nature’s wonders. Guests who visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom can see this tiny endangered monkey at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I was fortunate enough this summer to see these animals in the only place in the world where they are found in the wild: the forests of Brazil.
Golden lion tamarins are quite a story. With the population hovering at only a few thousand, zoos around the world banded together to reintroduce golden lion tamarins born in their facilities to the wild. It was a success! These animals joined wild golden lion tamarins to form breeding groups that have brought this species back from the brink of extinction. Now, the country of Brazil even pictures a golden lion tamarin on the currency—that’s progress!
Today’s conservation efforts focus on working with people to protect Brazil’s tropical forests to make sure the tamarins continue to have a home. The DWCF has helped support long-term conservation efforts to protect these forests and to develop public education programs that reach millions of people in rural communities and in the largest cities of Brazil.
And, as you’ll see in this new video, the DWCF, along with Disney’s Friends for Change, has helped The Golden Lion Tamarin Association engage the next generation of conservationists — Brazil’s young people — to protect the tamarin.
This is truly a program that we can all be so very proud of, as people in Brazil have rallied to protect this amazing animal for the future.
Did you know?
Golden lion tamarins measure only about a foot from the top of their heads to the base of their tails and weigh little more than a pound.
These small monkeys live high atop the canopy of the rainforest, where they can leap from branch to branch with amazing agility as they forage for food.
They live in family groups of 2 to 8 individuals, and all individuals in the group assist in the rearing of the newborn tamarins.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series:
During the night of July 27, before their release the next morning, Peach and Pearl laid their nests on the beach close to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. We have some very exciting news—both Peach’s and Pearl’s nests have hatched! After several weeks of incubation, in which the nests withstood Tropical Storm Isaac and many other localized storm events, 92 sea turtle hatchlings emerged from Pearl’s nest and made their way to the ocean. The nest had a total of 99 eggs, giving it an amazing 93% hatching success. Peach’s nest also had an impressive hatching success: 86 out of 89 eggs hatched.
As you can see from their Tour de Turtles maps, Peach and Pearl both headed for the Gulf of Mexico. Peach headed up toward the Florida panhandle, and Pearl has remained just offshore of Ft. Myers, Florida, where she has apparently found good foraging grounds with lots of tasty crustaceans. “Satellite tracking research helps scientists and conservationists identify important feeding areas and migration pathways for loggerhead sea turtles, such as Pearl and Peach,” notes Dan Evans, Technology & Research Specialist at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “Knowing where loggerheads go to feed and the path they take from nesting beaches to reach these feeding areas helps direct policy and regulations that protect sea turtles from potential threats in their feeding areas and during their journey.”
Did you know?
Guests can find out more about sea turtle satellite tracking when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and everyone can cheer on Peach and Pearl online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
With about a month to go in the race, Peach is in 5th place and Pearl is in 8th place. Of course, all sea turtles are winners when we help them by not leaving trash on the beach and by turning off lights at night when visiting the beach.
Disney’s Animal Programs team members have marked and monitored 1,381 loggerhead sea turtle nests, 220 green sea turtle nests, and 11 leatherback sea turtle nests so far during the 2012 nesting season, which ends in late October.
During the nesting season, guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series:
Sea turtle nesting season (May to October) is a hubbub of activity at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and the past couple of weeks have been no exception. In today’s blog post, I’m excited to share news on Cinderella the sea turtle’s nest and this year’s Tour de Turtles, as well as an amazing video of hatchlings emerging from their nest and heading to the sea.
The race is on in Tour de Turtles. Last Saturday morning, more than 500 Disney’s Vero Beach Resort guests cheered as two loggerhead sea turtles, who had laid their eggs on the beach the night before, returned to the sea. The turtles were fitted with satellite transmitters and released on the beach near the resort as part of the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s annual Tour de Turtles event. The first turtle to swim the farthest will be declared the winner. The turtles are named after characters in the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo.” Peach is sponsored by Disney’s Animal Programs and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and Pearl is sponsored by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Friends for Change.
Researchers from Disney’s Animal Programs and the Sea Turtle Conservancy will track the sea turtles using satellite telemetry as they travel from their nesting beach to various feeding grounds. Using this technology, scientists learn about sea turtles’ habits at sea and the different migratory patterns of each species. This knowledge helps researchers, conservationists and governing agencies make more informed decisions about sea turtle conservation actions and policies. Guests can find out about this research and follow the tracks of the turtles when they visit the Wildlife Tracking Center in Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. People worldwide can view the sea turtles’ progress online at www.tourdeturtles.org.
Readers of the Disney Parks Blog will remember that a June 6 blog post told the story of Cinderella the sea turtle, who came up on the beach very late one night (after midnight, hence the name Cinderella) near Disney’s Vero Beach Resort to lay her eggs. I promised to provide an update on the nest to report on how many hatchlings emerged. Cinderella’s nest is one of hundreds that Disney’s Animal Programs cast members monitor during sea turtle nesting season at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Cast members are marking new sea turtle nests daily, as well as monitoring existing nests until they hatch. Well, it was quite a summer for Cinderella’s nest. In late May, Tropical Storm Beryl washed over the nest. In early June, a large ghost crab took up residence a few feet from the nest, but, fortunately, didn’t do any digging at the nest site. In late June, Tropical Storm Debby washed over the nest. Sea turtle nests are quite vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, as they are likely to be inundated with water, which can harm the eggs. Cast members monitoring Cinderella’s nest in early July found a leatherback sea turtle hatchling that had been caught up in fishing line washed up on the beach. They freed the hatchling from the fishing line and released it at night, when it was cooler and the hatchling would be safer from predators.
Finally, in late July, the eggs in Cinderella’s nest hatched. We inventoried the nest, and she had a total of 121 eggs in the nest — 55 hatched and 66 didn’t. Why the low number of hatchlings? Well, Tropical Storm Debby seemed to have had an effect on her nest; she laid her nest in an area that received a lot of wave action over her nest, but still those 55 hatchlings made it to the ocean. That same day we inventoried another nest that was laid in the sand above Cinderella’s nest, and it had 123 eggs, of which 118 hatched and only 5 didn’t. Here is some video footage taken with special night vision equipment of hatchlings emerging from the nest. As for the hatchlings, you can see that we were very careful not to interfere with their ability to reach the ocean safely. We are excited to share this video of one of nature’s most amazing wonders. Enjoy!
Did you know?
In “Finding Nemo,” “Peach” is a starfish and “Pearl” is an octopus.
In the Tour de Turtles, each turtle acts as an ambassador to raise awareness about a specific threat to sea turtles. Peach is raising awareness about the threat of light pollution on the beach. Since sea turtle hatchlings rely on moonlight to find their way to the ocean, many become disoriented and drawn off-course by artificial light sources. Pearl is raising awareness about the threat of entanglement. Turtles can become tangled in trash and nets, and drown.
Each year, approximately 50,000 female sea turtles lay their eggs on Florida beaches, making the state’s beaches one of the most important nesting areas in the world. Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth and have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years. In the United States, as much as 90 percent of sea turtle nesting occurs in Florida, which serves as a primary nesting site for several species of endangered and threatened sea turtles.
Guests visiting Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot can adopt a sea turtle nest. And, of course, people can help turtles year-round by taking action to reduce waste, save water and keep it clean, and reduce emissions.
Check out these other posts from the Wildlife Wednesdays series: