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Racing sea turtle named in honor of Stephen Colbert

Racing sea turtle named in honor of Stephen Colbert

Racing sea turtle named in honor of Stephen Colbert
Conservation International
April 13, 2007

An eleventh turtle named Stephanie Colburtle has joined competitors Yahoo!, Travelocity, Plantronics, West Marine, Dreyer’s 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.



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



“Folks, there’s my beautiful adopted daughter!” he said, showing a photograph of a leatherback turtle on the screen.

Great Turtle Race set to launch from Costa Rica
The Great Turtle Race, a unique international sea turtle conservation event bringing corporate sponsors together with conservation organizations, will take place from April 16 to April 29 in a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.

“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 University’s 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.”



“We’re 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 science – but 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 Dreyer’s 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 Colbert 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).


This is a modified news release from Conservation International