299 turtles killed after systems failure at Farm

| 02/08/2012

10383794.jpg(CNS): A break in a main pipe that carries sea water to the Cayman Turtle Farm last month resulted in the death of 299 of the Farm's young animals. The turtles were killed because of a backup systems failure in one of the large commercial farm tanks. The loss is the first incident of its kind in the Farm’s 40-plus years in existence, officials said, but it had led to an improvement in the crisis response and resiliency systems. As a result, during last week’s blackout when seaside pumps were out of operation for the entire morning, the farm got through the outage without any loss of turtles. Nevertheless, the facility's staff are all said to be extremely upset about the death of so many animals.

“We lost some 299 turtles, which were all between the ages of three and five years old," the Farm said in a statement about the incident. “This loss has been very upsetting to the management and crew members involved in responding to the incident. Although a significant number, this represents less than 5% of the total number of turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm and the turtles lost were not part of the Cayman Turtle Farm’s breeder stock.”

The problems began for the farm around 11am on Monday, 16 July, when the main seawater pipe sprang a leak and began flooding the road it runs under. In order to repair the crack the decision was made to cease pumping sea water into the farm through the main pipe system.

“Several hundred thousand gallons of fresh sea water are required to be pumped into the farm on a continuous basis to maintain daily operations and ensure the safety and optimal living conditions of the sea turtles housed at the Cayman Turtle Farm, and this water flow ceased during the diagnosis and repair of the pipe break,” officials explained.

Repairs began but finding a major break required heavy equipment, external contractors, additional manpower, layers of fiberglass work followed by concrete work. It took many hours to complete and the pipe was not back in action until 10pm that night.

“While repairs were being made, alternative water pumping systems were obtained and put into place in efforts to maintain adequate water levels and some water circulation in the turtle tanks,” the Farm said but as a result of problems with the back-up system the turtles housed in one of the tanks had died.

“Immediately after repairs were completed and water pumping operations returned to normal, the management teamat the Cayman Turtle Farm met to review the incident and put improved mitigating procedures and systems into place based on the lessons learned,” officials added.

The Farm is now implementing new procedures and emergency back-up water supply systems to avoid the loss of any turtle in future. The core water pumping and piping system is being monitored and some key valves that failed are being replaced.

“The responsible stewardship of the animals in our care is a responsibility that we take very seriously and our crew works hard and diligently every day to ensure that safe and optimal operating conditions are maintained. We remain saddened by this recent loss – the first of its kind in the Cayman Turtle Farm’s 40-plus years in existence but we are energized about improving our crisis response and resiliency systems moving forward,” the Farm stated.

Despite the sad loss, a spokesperson for the Farm added that the facility was seeing a good number of hatchlings survive this nesting season, which is good news as the Farm has been struggling with its breeding programme for several years. 

“There is new life in the midst of the sadness,” the spokesperson said.

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (23)

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  1. N Somniac says:

    Eating turtle is barbaric.

    • Anonymous says:

      Eating wild turtles causes cancer. They feed on carcenogenic sponges. This is undocumented speculation by a friend of mine, but it gave me something to think about. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Still waiting for an honest logical reasonable explanation about what really happened to the 299 turtles who have died a senseless and tragic death which I am certain could have been prevented if not for someone's gross negligence and incompetence.  Someone needs to be held accountable here, and it starts with The Manager of the Turtle Farm.  Someone or maybe several persons need to beterminated and fined for the death of these turtles just the same as poachers would be, incluing the manager of the farm.  These are endangered animals that we are supposed to protect.  There are laws in place to protect them and should even be moreso applied to those at the farm in charge of their care.  I am sick of the nonchallant response from the farm that nothing like this has happened in 40 years…….like that is justifictaion for what has happene.    that makes me more sick about this situation.  It just goes to show that with even with more technology we are going backwards because it is how things are done in Cayman….put incompetent, unqualified and untrained people in positions such as what has been the scene at the Turtle Farm for the past 20 years….and expect better results?????  At this rate the turtles mite fare better in the wild……IGive us answers.  We are entitled to know.  Its also strange that nothing has been on the news about it to my knowlege.  Another coverup I guess.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Why not transfer the Turtles to the ocean! Who cares of there are less turtles for turtle stew… I understand the need for the farm BUT not at the detriment of in Humane death.


  4. Anonymous says:

    No matter how they died it's got to be an improvement over how they lived.  The turtle farm is a national embarassment.  They release about 2 turtles per year out of thousands, keep the rest in miserable captivity, fleece tourists and need government subsidies of tens of millions per year just to stay afloat, much of which goes unaccounted for.  If McKeeva had really exhausted every alternative before introducing a tax this place would have been closed ages ago.

  5. The Real Beenie says:

    It was probably a combination of heat stress and being packed together, being crushed under the weight of each other.

    It really shows a lack of emergency planning though.  A diesel powered back up pump would have been in place. Heck, MRCU has several of them for pumping water out from the dikes and could have been set up in a few hours if they had any foresight to allow for such a thing.

    I remember a while back after the farm got demolished by a hurricane, a hurricane threat caused the farm to have to relocate the turtles on the sea side over to the tanks on the land side.  They emptied 8 tanks and we had to move the turtles by hand and found a few dead after being crushed by others before we could get them all out.  Everything from the small hatchling sized ones up to the 600lb breeders were moved. Took a few days to get the turtle smell off me.  That was a long night but gave me a sense of accomplishment to complete what at first seemed impossible.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The silence is deafening.  Why hasn't the Managing Director of the Turtle Farm faced the questions and the press on this. The same goes for the Minister of Tourism, the Chairman of CTF and the Chief Officer for Tourism. 

    These turtles should have been released into the wild before they were allowed to die.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it me or is incompetence endemic to these islands?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Please tell us what really happened.  Turtles breathe air and as long as they are kept out of the sun they can live a long time out of water.  Something else happened here and we demand a truthful, reasonable and logical explanation.  I don't but any part of this story except that a water main may have broken.  The rest is some gross negligence I suspect.  Very sad and disgusting that all of those turtles died unnecessarily.  There is more to this than we are being told and I am sure if any competent and trained marine scientist came own here to investigate this we would know a whole different story.  Bring in some professionals who know what they are doing and tell us whatreally happened but also help them fix the problem so this does not ever happen again….not in 40 more years or ever…….and whoever is responsible for this failure should be termintated immediately.

    • Anonymous says:

      and the thing is someone is getting paid for preventing things like that form happening

  9. Anonymous says:

    Come on Tim tell us what is going on in that camp now!

  10. Anonymous says:

    CNS can you please clarify.

  11. Anonymous says:


    This called, in Caymanian language, "competence"! Hire "educated" and "experienced" Caymanian people if you want a disaster. 8 hours of a power outage, with one day notice, end up being 14hours; the entire island goes into a blackout for morethan 10 hours- with no consequences for those who should have prevented it; workplace safety is unheard of; next time turtles would not die…. Who called this country "civilized"?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have never heard such bull sh$&, these turtles were neglected and some one should pay for this.
    If the water filtration was such a problem, the turtles could have been released into the ocean or pumps could have been obtained from M.R.C.U.

    You are nothing but a bunch of under trained idiots!

  13. Anonymous says:

    They were poisoned in the sewage of their own waste; that's the reality of it. Seeing the turtles at the "farm" is heartbreaking to me. They are literally on top of one another, flapping listlessly around in murky, fetid water, eating dried chunks of processed feed….existing, not living. I almost feel sorry for the ones that died except that I feel death has to be better than the excuse for a life they had.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am confused by this report! Sea turtles can survives days without water! Who’s kidding who here?

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm with you on that.  If they had a problem, surely just let them go into the sea as well.  Somethings not right about this 'explanation'

    • EEEEK-A-MOUSE says:

      You try spend a day in a dry concrete tank in this heat, it must have been as hot as an oven with out any shade. I bet they were well and truely cooked before anyone even realized….

      Maybe Mac cooked them up to buy more votes?

      • Anonymous says:

        But there are paid employees at this Farm, whose job is to prevent events like that. Doesn't anyone takes a pride from what they do?????/

        • Anonymous says:

          Paid employees?  You mean like the Civil service? Pride in what they do?  Hire incompetence but expect results?  there is good reason Cayman runs like a third world country.

    • noname says:

      It was the middle of the day. They baked to death. 

    • Truthseeker says:


      Turtles are air-breathing reptiles. They would not die because of a situation of a bit of stagnant water. They historically lived upside down on sailing vessels for extended periods.

      What actually killed them? Heat, chemicals? It was not lack of seawater so give that a break!

      Why, if their lives were in danger, were they not released off Northwest Point to live in the wild? – (Potential for major Cudos to the Turtle Farm).

      Why was this kept a secret? This is Cayman, you think it isn't going to get public? And yes, we have freedom of information.

      Was an employee fired over this event. If so, were they a scapegoat, as the information so far provided suggests? Or were they guilty of gross negligenence?



      And you know what? I will to find out, so if you choose to help cover up this information, it will come back to haunt you!