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Rare sea turtle released back into ocean

The hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle is in the water just in time for the marathon Tour de Turtles race.

MARATHON, Fla. — When marine life gets sick or injured, volunteers and staff at animal rescue centers jump in to help. Once those animals are healthy, they're released back into the wild, sometimes with a tracker so researchers can continue to study them.

That's the case for a rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle released from a Florida Keys beach Friday. Maisy was rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital. She was fitted with a satellite-tracking transmitter before being allowed back in the water. You can see where she is right now on this map.

Credit: AP
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, "Maisy" crawls on a Florida Keys beach into the Atlantic Ocean Friday, June 19, 2020, in Marathon, Fla. Fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter, "Maisy," a rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle, is the first of nine hardshell turtles to be released to become part of the Tour de Turtles, a "race" of released reptiles with satellite transmitters that is to begin Aug. 1 and end Oct. 31. The public can track the turtles online and the one that swims the farthest is declared the winner. "Maisy" was rescued almost a year ago and Turtle Hospital staff treated her for fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like disease that affects sea turtles around the world. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

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Along with helping researchers keep tabs on her, the tracker gives Maisy entry into this year's Tour De Turtles. It's a marathon-like "race" that follows the long-distance migration of sea turtles over three months. The annual educational project, organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, is intended to raise awareness about sea turtles and the threats to their survival.

RELATED: Scientists say sea turtle conservation efforts are working

Credit: AP
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, "Maisy" begins to crawl on a Florida Keys beach to the Atlantic Ocean Friday, June 19, 2020, in Marathon, Fla. Fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter, "Maisy," a rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle, is the first of nine hardshell turtles to be released to become part of the Tour de Turtles, a "race" of released reptiles with satellite transmitters that is to begin Aug. 1 and end Oct. 31. The public can track the turtles online and the one that swims the farthest is declared the winner. "Maisy" was rescued almost a year ago and Turtle Hospital staff treated her for fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like disease that affects sea turtles around the world. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

"This the thirteenth year we've done Tour de Turtles, and it's done each year to really raise awareness about turtles and the threats to turtles," Dan Evans, Senior Research Biologist at the Sea Turtle Conservancy explains. 

 "So there are still lots of threats to the survival of turtles out in the water or on our beaches. And the Tour de Turtles is a way to educate people and raise awareness through an exciting, you know, being able to track and follow these turtles."

RELATED: Thrilling drone video shows thousands of nesting turtles at Great Barrier Reef

This year's Tour de Turtles features two competitive divisions -- hard-shell sea turtles like Maisy and leatherback sea turtles that typically swim faster and farther.

Credit: AP
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, staff from The Turtle Hospital and the Sea Turtle Conservancy carry "Maisy" to a Florida Keys beach to be released Friday, June 19, 2020, in Marathon, Fla. Fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter, "Maisy," a rare hybrid hawksbill-green sea turtle, is the first of nine hardshell turtles to be released to become part of the Tour de Turtles, a "race" of released reptiles with satellite transmitters that is to begin Aug. 1 and end Oct. 31. The public can track the turtles online and the one that swims the farthest is declared the winner. "Maisy" was rescued almost a year ago and Turtle Hospital staff treated her for fibropapillomatosis, a herpes-like disease that affects sea turtles around the world. (Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau via AP)

RELATED: Florida beachgoers get a glimpse of a nesting 800-pound leatherback turtle

"Maisy" was rescued almost a year ago off Summerland Key. She's swimming to raise awareness about her condition when she was rescued, fibropapillomatosis. It's a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world. Along with treatment for the disease, Turtle Hospital staff also performed multiple tumor removal surgeries, gave Maisey antibiotics and put her on a healthy diet of seafood and greens. 

Maisy is the first of the hard-shell turtles to be fitted with a satellite transmitter. 8 other turtle will be released from the Florida coast by the end of the month. The hard-shell turtles tracking and "race" begins August 1 and ends October 31. The leatherbacks have been racing since World Sea Turtle Day on June 16.

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