Stephen Colbert Sea Turtle Joins the Great Turtle Race

4/12/2007

Student Researchers Name Colossal Leatherback In Honor Of Their Hero

Washington, DC An eleventh turtle named Stephanie Colburtle has joined competitors Yahoo!, Travelocity, Plantronics, West Marine, Dreyers Ice Cream and other sponsors in The Great Turtle Race, a unique international sea turtle conservation event that will take place online from April 16 to April 29 in a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.

The turtle was named in honor of television comedian Stephen Colbert by student researchers at Playa Grande, Costa Rica, which is the most important nesting site for leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean and the starting line for The Great Turtle Race.

Im a huge fan of shelled reptiles, said Colbert, announcing The Great Turtle Race on his Comedy Central show, Colbert Report. Normally, Im no endangered species hugger...but this year, nation, one of those 11 turtles is named after me: Stephanie Colburtle the turtle.

Folks, theres my beautiful adopted daughter! he said, showing a photograph of a leatherback turtle on the screen.

"In Costa Rica, the students were up all night with me waiting for turtles to arrive on the beach at Playa Grande, recalls George Shillinger, a co-founder of The Great Turtle Race and researcher at Stanford Universitys Tagging of Pacific Predators program. We talked about our favorite late-night shows, and shortly thereafter a massive ambassador for the species emerged from the sea. She was magnificent, and we decided to name her after Stephen Colbert. We call her Stephanie Colburtle."

Were proving that science is fun, said Rod Mast, vice president of Conservation International. The data collected from the turtles in The Great Turtle Race is exceedingly useful to marine sciencebut we also want for people to have fun while learning about sea turtle conservation during the event. Stephanie Colburtle is helping to make that happen.

Colbert also remarked, Next to an eagle, a turtle is a perfect animal to represent me, later referring to leatherbacks as eagles of the sea. Stephanie Colburtle is one of the largest leatherbacks ever recorded nesting at Playa Grande. Her shell is 1.66 meters (almost 5.5 feet) long.

The Great Turtle Race is organized by Conservation International, the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy, The Leatherback Trust and the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program.

Ten other corporations and institutions will compete in The Great Turtle Race, including Dreyers Ice Cream, GITI Tires, Plantronics, Travelocity, West Marine and Yahoo!, which is hosting The Great Turtle Race online at www.GreatTurtleRace.com. Non-corporate sponsors include Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, CA; Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA; Life Sciences Secondary School in New York, NY (through the financial sponsorship of Microsoft); and Offield Center for Billfish Studies.

Great Turtle Race fans can choose Stephanie Colburtle or any of the other ten turtles as their favorite at www.GreatTurtleRace.com. Other activities on the website when the race begins on April 16 will include an interactive animation of the habitats and hazards along the leatherbacks journey; original blogs by scientists, students, and a character known as Mr. Leatherback who are following the race; and Great Turtle Race educational curriculum for teachers to incorporate the event into lesson plans (currently available on the website).


About The Great Turtle Race Organizers:
Conservation International: Conservation International believes that Earth's natural heritage must be maintained if future generations are to thrive spiritually, culturally and economically. Its mission is to conserve the Earth's living heritage, our global biodiversity, and to demonstrate that human societies are able to live harmoniously with nature. www.conservation.org.  

Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy: The Ministry of Energy and the Environment protects more than 25 percent of Costa Rican land in national parks, wildlife reserves and forest reserves. It seeks to maintain the integrity of the biodiversity and ecosystems of this Central American country. Las Baulas National Park plays a key role in this protected system.

The Leatherback Trust: The Leatherback Trust (TLT) is a non-profit foundation established to save the leatherback turtle and other sea turtles from extinction. TLT scientists were instrumental in founding Las Baulas National Marine Park in Costa Rica, a protective haven for the most important leatherback nesting beaches in the Pacific Ocean.

Tagging of Pacific Predators: TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Predators) seeks to better understand the North Pacific ecosystem by observing the biology and behavior of top-level marine predators in their oceanographic habitat. TOPP offers an organism's view of the open ocean environment, vastly increasing our knowledge of the Pacific Ocean and gathering data that will help policymakers and resource managers make wise decisions about ocean use.

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