Turtle Farm defends independence of review

| 12/12/2012

turtle-swimming-grand-cayman.jpg(CNS): Contrary to the statement from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) about the review of the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF), the local attraction said Wednesday that it was an unbiased and independent investigation, with the primary goal to determine if standards of care meet those required to ensure that the operation is conducted in a “humane manner”. The farm stated that the terms of reference directly related to the welfare of the turtles, and matched the areas of concern alleged by the WSPA in the report. “We therefore are at a loss to understand why the WSPA claims the review does not have the welfare of the turtles in the care of the Cayman Turtle Farm at heart,” the Farm stated in a release.

On Monday the WSPA said it had concerns that the review team was compromised of at least two members that had worked with the farm in the past and that there were no animal welfare experts on the team. The WSPA was also concerned about the standards to which the Cayman Turtle Farm would be held.

However, CTF said that as it is a completely unique facility with nothing to compare to, the terms of reference had to be based on the standards of practice that would apply to a comparable intensive livestock facility.

“The WSPA takes issue with this, arguing that the turtle is not a domesticated species. However, neither were pigs, cows or chickens – until they were in fact farmed and domesticated,” the Farm said.

CTF also stated that the four inspectors are all well-known turtle experts and members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG).

George Balazs, a sea turtle scientist with 40 years of professional experience, has published over 100 journal papers on sea turtles. He has been a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group since 1976, and is currently the MTSG Vice-Chair for the Pacific Islands Region.

Dr Annette Broderick is a Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology. She has been researching marine turtle populations for over 20 years, with much of her work focusing on the UK Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands. Her research focuses on the conservation and monitoring of marine turtle populations, in particular reproductive investment; impacts of temperature on hatchling production; migration and navigation of adults and the management of marine turtle harvests. She is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

Dr Thierry Work is a veterinarian, and a wildlife disease expert with 20 years of professional experience on diseases of sea turtles. He is credited with over 40 journal papers on sea turtles. He is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group and the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG).

Professor Brendan Godley is a marine conservation scientist and qualified veterinarian who has been working on marine turtles around the world for over 20 years. He is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Professor Godley was selected by the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to conduct an inspection in 2002 on the Cayman Turtle Farm. He serves on the IUCN Veterinary Specialist Group and the Turtle Implementation Group for the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for Marine Turtles.

“Despite the clear qualifications of these individuals to conduct a thorough review of the Cayman Turtle Farm, the WSPA has complained that there is no animal welfare expert on the review team,” the Farm stated, adding that it did not know how the WSPA defined an animal welfare expert as all of the team are inarguably experts on sea turtles. It said two are qualified veterinarians, while another has three years’ experience on an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) combined with formal training in animal welfare.

The farm also denied that team was compromised and said it believed that if a WSPA expert had been invited to take part then the review would have been less independent.

“For this reason, neither a WSPA representative nor a Cayman Turtle Farm representative are included on the team, for the very purpose of ensuring that the reviewers come to their own independent conclusions,” the CTF said.

Professor Brendan Godley and Dr Annette Broderick have been in contact with the Cayman Turtle Farm over the years in the course of their work, which the farm said is not surprising as the Farm is the only organisation of its kind in the world, focusing on captive breeding of sea turtles and maintaining a stock of sea turtles of various ages.

However, CTF said neither Professor Godley nor Dr Broderick have ever been employed by CTF. Godley conducted a review of the Cayman Turtle Farm in 2002 that was funded by the UK Government and he was selected by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) based on his expertise.

The report is due at the end of January and CTF said it will pursue the recommendations arising from it and make the findings public.

“The Cayman Turtle Farm was not forced into this independent review. We chose to have it conducted and agreed to pursue its findings in order toaddress the areas of concern which arose due to the WSPA’s allegations, and to reaffirm that the Cayman Turtle Farm is a bona fide research and conservation facility, which does not practice or condone animal cruelty, and which is committed to the wellbeing of the turtles in our care,” CTF said.

According to the review terms of reference, the inspection team is expected to examine water quality; stocking densities; treatment and prevention of disease and injury; levels and causes of mortality; levels (if any) of severe injuries; levels (if any) of congenital deformities; handling of animals by guests (including safety of both animals and guests); and slaughter methods and practice.

Related article on CNS:

Cayman Turtle-Farm-undergoes-review

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I am so glad to read that the leatherback turtles are no longer endangered. Surely if  they are such a small number of turtles and they made it then why not the green sea turtles? 

    Man lives on 30% of the planet creating 2  children per 76 years of life. Turtles live on 40% of the planet . They say that turtles can lay up to 150 eggs in a nest and make up to 10 nests. Thats 1500 eggs if some turtles don't lay any at all lets say they average 500 eggs per female per year. Lets then say that only 30% make it to adult life then that figure would be 150 turtles. Which could be the reason that turtles never went extinct. 

    The King of England in the 18th century said that the turtles would soon be endangered and that the Cayman islands should stop people from coming to the islands and taking them. But of course that didn't happen. 

    So I guess what we should be saying is thank you CTF. In fact we should sell franchises  to around the world because WE are the only ones who know how to do it HA. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is the statement that cracked me up the most:

    “The WSPA takes issue with this, arguing that the turtle is not a domesticated species. However, neither were pigs, cows or chickens – until they were in fact farmed and domesticated,” the Farm said.

    Wait…seriously?  That's your argument?  Were those pigs, cows, and chickens endangered?  Were their numbers dwindling?  No.  That is not a valid excuse to justify farming and domesticating a species of animal that is in dangerand needs its numbers replenished in the wild.

    • Anonymous says:

      You miss the point. There are two arguments. (A) that the farm is an evil place for having turtles in tanks and butchering them to eat, because turtles are a 'non-domesticated' animal. (B) Turtles need conserving in the wild.

      (A) is where the cows & chickens argument comes in. Compare the farm to a farm and don't whine that just because no one else farms turtles they somehow shouldn't be farmed.

      (B) is where the farm releases come in. No, they don't release enough to make a difference. Honestly, since turtle endangerment is a global issue, even if you released every single turtle in the Farm today it wouldn't make a jot of difference. Turtles are endangered but not to the point (like the blue iguanas were) that every individual matters. Frankly, the 'conservation' argument is neither here nor there. The Farm is neither helping nor hurting wild turtles. (Unless you restrict this to local conservation in which case the Farm probably helps more by supplying a source of non-poached turtles than through the few they release that manage to return in 20 years time to nest. Remember that more turtles die as fishery bycatch in the Carribean than are eaten in Cayman each year.)


      The problem is (C) are the Farm's husbandry practices up to scratch? As a farm. – No, they're probably not. But WSPA's hyperbolic claims don't help to address the husbandry problems. Hopefully an actual review of practices and standards will. If the Farm takes the reviewers advice this time.

      • Anonymous says:

        A-why do you insist on farming protected wildlife?  Why do you think the rest of the world should give you the thumbs up on this? You can't even export the shells because it is ILLEGAL to sell them anywhere else. Why can't you just leave the turtles alone and not lose $20 million a year farming them to eat.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ahh…they are not endangered because they have been farmed for centuries. That is a fact. Imagine what would have been the situation with the population of these "domesticated" animals?! The demand for beef and chicken is well beyond what nature could have provided.

      Hence the invention of CAFO's to meet the need of many.

      Turtles are no different. They are endangered not because Caymanians are depleting them faster than what nature can replenish them.

      The fishing companies that have trawling nets that strech for miles and drag on the ocean floor is the problem. Thousands of marine mamals, and turtles are destroyed during these primative process.

      The Turtle Farm should do more to ensure the health and living conditions of the trutles yes, but to stop the farming of meat to meet the demand for it will do more harm to the wild population.

      As a visitor to the Islands for many years, I must say that turtl meat isn't my favorite meat. But it is the heritage of the local people. However, I have also noticed that the respect (or the lack there of) is so evident.

      It seems obvious to me that the drive to stop the farming of the turtles have nothing to do with the protection of the animals, but more to do with the total distaste for the localsand their culture.

    • Anonymous says:

      Considering that methane gas is a greenhouse gas and many times more heat absorbing than C02, I think we should stop farming cattle in large quantaties (biggest producer of mehane gas); and only hunt them from the wild. Lets see how long that works!


  3. Anonymous says:

    I went to the turtle farm this week as part of the obligatory house guest tour, and was taken aback at how clean it has become from recent times.  The tanks are now clean and clear, there are more signs explaining what they are doing – even the lagoon was clearer and less congested.  The fish tank is still a bit green, but much improved over previous visits.  WSPA and recent dignitary visits have certainly moved/cattle-prodded them in the right direction.  

  4. Anonymous says:

    talking to caymanians about animal welfare is like banging your head against a brick wall……

    • Anonymous says:

      Excuse me?!!! "Talking to Caymanians". So you are saying that all Caymanians don't care about the welfare of animals?! That statement say's a lot about you as an individual.

      I hope you are not living on the Island, cause it is clear that you dont like these people and have your opinion about them all. Didn't realized that one person knew everyone on the island and that all of them were the same!!! WOW.

      I have visited the Islands a lot, and found Caymanians to be some of, if not, the most welcoming people n the Caribbean!! Perhaps they have been too welcoming for their own good ifit has got them the company of people like you, who make sweeping remarks like that.

      You must be a special person, so proud of yourself eh? No, I take it back YOU ARE SPECIAL!

  5. Anonymous says:

    look at the picture….enough said!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone tell these experts that 400 turtles died a horrible and tragic death only a few months ago due to nothing but utter incompetence, negligence and complacency?  Government should have immediately released the persons directly responsibe for that tragedy and all management and called in experts to put the farm in capable hands.  The Turtle farm as it is now is an embarrassment and disgrace in the name of conservation.  It hasn't been run properly for many years now because it is obvious to most that the focus is NOT on the quality of care for the turtles, but on everything else there that may attract the dollars.  I am a Caymaniain who can say I was once very proud of our farm…but that was way back when it was called Mariculture and it was headed up and staffed by qualified and enthusiastic persons.  Where turltes were in clean,uncrowded pens and fed their proper diet.  Thats what needs to happen before I will support the Turtle Farm.  I love my turtle stew but right now I am with WSPA.

  7. Anonymous says:

    And just how much will we be paying for this unnecessary public relations ploy?

  8. Anonymous says:

    After all that has happened at the "farm" and the millions that have been poured into it my question is" Why do you expect anyone with a education to belive anything that comes out of the turtle farm now?"  Or is that the faction you are not interested in?

  9. Anonymous says:

    No independent review is undertakne by a panel selected by the person being reviewed.  Anyway since the most abused/mutated turtles were released or slaughtered for meat ("Mommy this mutation makes it taste even better"), the horse has bolted.  The reviewers need to check records of stock levels over the last 12 months, release number over the last few years and the amount of meat stock held by the farm over the last 12 months.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I very good idea by the management of the CTF – to have an independent review done of this facility. 

  11. Slowpoke says:

    Well, I am an "animal welfare expert".  I am a card carrying member of PETA, and would be happy to volunteer my time.


    PS:  PETA = People for Eating Tasty Animals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Slowpoke do you realize how nasty a chicken is.   Scrabbling dirt and picking worms yet we eat chicken foot and other parts.   Do you realize that the Hog eats his feces, but we are still eating Port chops.  Do you realize that cow walks in shit all day but we are still eating cow foot.  The Turtle eats fish and grass.  You tell me which is better to eat.

      • Anonymous says:

        Reality check: the only turtle you are allowed to eat comes from the farm (at enormous taxpayer expense) and is fed purina turtle chow, floating feces, and chunks of their rubbery neighbours.   

  12. Anonymous says:

    It is certainly a " completely unique facility"–a zoo that kills its animals in the back while selling tickets in the front. People don't buy tickets to see chicken farms and cattle feedlots. Are you going to apply public aquarium or fish farm standards?

    • Anonymous says:

      I say fish farm standards. The intent of the farm was to raise turtle for food in the first place. Its either that or we get them in the wild. Now let the braying begin.  

      • Anonymous says:

        Ok by me but then it needs to operate without losing $20 million a year.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are right, a chicken farm or a meat plant have enough sense to not sell you tickets. TRUST ME, they don't want the public to see what goes on in the back!!! Because if we did, no one would want to eat meat again!!!

      Did my thesis on Feed Lots and their environmental impacts. Went to a CAFO in a Southern State five years ago. Went through hell and high water to get permission from corporate headquarters to agree to let me in. Couldn't video or take photos of certain areas, can't name it!. Never ate meat since.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is very pleasing to see that the Cayman Turtle Farm has taken measures to defend its reputation against the allegations of WSPA. Of course, this being the only turtle farm in the world makes it a target for those who would have it shut down, regardless of the good that is being done. I wish the Cayman Turtle Farm great luck in clearing its name and continuing the great work that it has been doing and I will look forward to the next release of turtles to help replenish the wild.

    • Dr. Anthony Britsen says:

      Do you REALLY think the turtle farm is doing good?  Their turtle release into the wild programis miniscule by their own admission of numbers released.  The turtle population would benefit far more by reducing the number of nests poached by people who have no interest in conservation.  I believe I read that more than 5000 turtles were hatched on cayman Brac this year!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, I do believe they are doing good. You do not have to agree with me.

      • Anonymous says:

        Turtles can hardly survive as an adult, due to the thousands of trawling nets that patrol the oceans. Young hatchlings are even less likely to make it to adulthood.