BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - No "doping" for these long-distance paddlers, just fueling up on whatever hard-shelled conch and whelks their loggerheads can crush.
They'll need all the energy they can muster to win the "Tour de Turtles" -- a sea turtle marathon modeled after the Tour de France.
On Sunday, conservationists plan to send off two female loggerhead sea turtles from the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to compete in the race, according to Local 6 news partner Florida Today.
With satellite transmitters glued to their shells, they'll flipper-flap into the Atlantic, competing with several other turtles released around the same time throughout Florida and the Caribbean.
The winner of the race used to be the first turtle to swim about 1,600 miles. But to equalize the playing field for the different-sized turtle species that compete, last year the event changed the winner to whichever turtle swims the farthest in three months.
The prize: "Fame and glory," said Rocio Johnson, spokesperson for Sea Turtle Conservancy, a nonprofit group based in Gainesville. "We're really excited for this year."
The race is to raise awareness about turtle conservation and to study sea turtle migration.
The turtles all are equipped with satellite transmitters glued to their shells, so researchers, students and fans can track them at www.tourdeturtles.org.
Researchers rarely recover the $2,000 to $3,000 satellite transmitters, which typically last up to two years. But the transmitters provide valuable scientific data on the turtles' migratory routes and foraging grounds.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy and University of Central Florida researchers will attach the transmitters on two loggerhead sea turtles at the Barrier Island Center, within the Carr refuge.
Sunday's Tour de Turtles release event at the Barrier Island Center is free and open to the public.
Since the launch of Tour de Turtles in 2008, the Sea Turtle Conservancy has released 25 loggerhead sea turtles outfitted with satellite transmitters from the Carr refuge, located in Brevard and Indian River counties.
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