Farm claims success with return of nesting turtle

| 17/01/2013

turtle-hatchling-38NK2047 (262x300).jpg(CNS): In the face of mounting financial woes and international pressure from activist groups, the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm said thereturn of another farm turtle to nest in Cayman was an indication of the success of its conservation programme. A turtle nesting on Seven Mile Beach at the Grand View was discovered to be one tagged and released from the farm in 1987, officials said. This one turtle adds to a list of only 60 turtles from 31,000 released over the last 45 years that have actually come back to nest. Nevertheless, the addition was marked by the farm as important evidence that the tagging programme works.

From the 31,000 that have been released into the wild, 24,000 of those turtles were tagged and 4,500 given ‘living tags’ — a technique pioneered by Professor John Hendrickson and Lupe Hendrickson of the University of Arizona.

“This discovery in early January has been of significant importance because yet another ‘living tagged’ female demonstrates that turtles released by the Cayman Turtle Farm are continuing their life cycle by successfully nesting on Cayman’s beaches. It is always particularly heartening when one of our own turtles returns home to breed,” Walter Mustin, the farm’s chief research officer, said in a release.

In recent years the farm has selected around a dozen juvenile turtles at about one year old to be released. In the past the numbers were far greater but following the decimation of the farm by Hurricane Michelle in 2001 the numbers in the release programme were dramatically reduced and there were several years in which no turtles were released at all.

Once released, the turtles spend as much as ten years in the ocean before returning to the coast, foraging for food and slowly maturing. It is estimated that it takes a turtle between 20 and 30 years to reach sexual maturity in the wild, and once they do, they migrate to nesting areas to breed. Females come ashore to lay their eggs, frequently to the same spot where they were born, although this is not always the case.

“Our tagged turtles may well begin nesting in other locations apart from Grand Cayman,” said Geddes Hislop, the farm’s curator. It is not possible, therefore, for the farm to say how many of the female turtles in the remaining 30,939 animals that were released have survived.

The baby turtles in this latest nest were among the last to hatch this season after a fall in temperature delayed several of the nests from hatching. The farm said that about 30 eggs hatched but no live turtles were found and around 70 unhatched eggs were discovered by the Department of Environment’s research officer, Janice Blumenthal, and her colleague Paul Chin.

Hislop said the discovery was a great start to the year. “Seeing the results of our head starting programme takes many years of patient waiting so this recent find is a testament to the programme’s ultimate success.”

However, there is a continuing campaign against the Turtle Farm following the findings of the charity World Society for theProtection of Animals (WSPA) that documented a catalogue of problems relating to the condition of the turtles and the husbandry practices at the facility, and the discovery of just one new nesting female from the farm is unlikely to make 2013 a happy year for the struggling tourism attraction.

A report from a review commissioned by the farm is expected to be published shortly in connection with the damning findings of the charity, which farm officials have disputed. However, the WSPA is expected to increase its campaign this year to turn the farm into a real conservation facility.

The latest revelations in the farm’s own annual report have also done little to help improve the image of the Cayman Turtle Farm. The report showed that the farm is breaching the terms of its permit to discharge waste into the ocean as it has failed to reduce the effluent. Even more damaging is the massive losses still being sustained at the farm — a bill which is being picked up by the Caymanian tax payer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

About the Author ()

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    How can this be labelled a failure? Do we know if Cuba,Jamaica, Central America etc may not have some of the other turtles released from the farm there laying eggs in their deserted parts of their beaches? Do we? How quick we try to point our finger to failure when we could be actually creating success.

    Can we not see that the island is changing ? We have crocodiles ,west indian ducks, and blue iguanas now . 

    Oh yeah and the green iguanas by the way, we going to have to kill them . Our enironmentalists said theres too many and they are now destroying plant life. Maybe we could have a new golf game at the links where we could hit iguanas for points or money or barbeque with cay-brew. I hear they taste like chicken.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Crocodiles have been extinct since 1849 since 2006 they seem to be coming back. 3 were spotted in northside and one since has been seen at the shores. Is it the same croc or are they now laying here?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sixty turtles making it back to Cayman is still much better then no turtles at all isn't it? By the way how many eggs were laid by sixty turtles?

    Some time ago a environmental scientist said that man was the reason that blue iguanas were in decline .We went to the WWF got donations and now we have over 650 blue iguanas and over 4000 green iguanas. Scientists around the caribbean said the west indian duck was extinct . Well we have a lot of them too. In each case groups concerned with these projects had claimed" thank god they were part of bringing these iguanas back". Like it had nothing to do with human beings living on this island ( you know the natives). Its funny how none of these people own any of that land where these creatures lived. But we were the cause of their endangerment. Hmm interesting.

    So by the way where did the west indian duck come from if it was extinct?  Didn't the natives shoot them all? Wow if its done by the natives we're fools. 

    Well it was done by scientists from USA and Europe mostly Dr. Archie Carr, Dr. Wood and his wife etc.etc. oh and one Cayman scientist Dr. Parsons. Turtle science is new science we need more marine biologist that specialize in turtle science. But anytime someone talks about the turtle farm its aboutclosing it down and what an embarrassment it is . Please go on you tube and watch any third world country doing fishing like India for instance and see how they do things. Then if youwant a cause with a little excitement go there and tell those people you don't like how they chop up dolphins or turtles or raise their chickens or other farm animals. Because over there you would  really be helping the world in animal abuse. 

    So lets wait till the scientists to tell us how many eggs were laid ok ??

    • Anonymous says:

      The farm loses $8 million or more a year, pollutes the water, and kills most of the turtles. After 30 years you get ONE farm nester back this year. How can this be a success?

    • Anonymous says:

      It wasn't 60 returning turtles. Only 12. Waiting for CTF to step forward and correct the record. 

      This should not be a "fight" slinging mud and dredging up all kinds of old stories. Lets move forward and find ways to fix what's broken instead of looking for who to blame. 

  4. Real World Calling says:

    Morning animal abusers.  You have made the Sunday Times.  Well done.  Tax dodging and animal abuse, some place you got down there.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Only in Cayman would a 0.19% count as a success.  

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good evidence! there is less than an 8% chance one of the 45 turtles they now release a year will return to nest, or one every 12 years. So 1 nesting turtle cost the Caymanians 144 million dollars in subsidies to the turtle abattoir (farm).

  7. Anonymous says:

    In Grand Cayman a business that Cost $8million dollars to run and pumps out a few turtles a year in return is called "successful".  That $8 Million should have been spent on education.

  8. Loopy Lou says:

    Look at the photograph, a tasty hors d'oeuvre for a cocktail party.

  9. Anonymous says:

    We should all be proud of this product of our Cayman Islands. This is our Heritage and our History.

    • UnionJack says:

      If that is your heritage and history it is pitiful.

      • Whodatis says:


        "Union Jack", are you sure you want to open this can of worms?

        • Union Jack says:

          Oh little Whodatis, you angry angry man, the can is open, can you deal with it without launching into a vitriolic anti-English rant? . . . .

          • Whodatis says:

            Your defensive response has taken care of everything I could ever dream to say at this point.


      • Anonymous says:

        And what is your heritage, going all over the world killing and taking what is not yours. Now that is something you can be proud of.

      • Anonymous says:

        It looks more like a baby turtle replenishing an endangered species to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually Cayman heritage and history will be this turtle being dragged off when nesting and finding its way into a Caymanian's stomach faster than you can say "soon come"


  10. Anonymous says:

    And it only cost about a million per successful turtle. Pat yourselves on the back.  Its what you do CIG.

  11. Anonymous says:

    These returning turtles were released long ago, back when the Turtle Farm was actually run by scientists (who were fired by politicians) and not just a way to give fat salaries to political cronies. For the farm to take credit now is ridicilous. If only 60 of 31,000 have come back over 45 years, then how can the few dozen still released have any significance at all? These people are so delusional they don't even understand their own numbers. They think if they say something often enough it will become true, and I think they even believe their own lies!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Im surprised any made it past east end. Not to worry though the new marine parks will fix everything.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Nice try.! Now clean up your act!

  14. Anonymous says:

    If it takes 30,000 turtles and 30 years to get 60 to come back to nest, no wonder some locals think it's a better idea just to keep them and eat them. Seriously, though, it makes the turtle release this year look that much more pitiful.  Based on the curator's statistics we can expect the class of 2012-2013 to return us 2/10ths of a turtle to nest in the year 2043.. And that future 2/10ths of a turtle only cost you $8 million to grow this year! What a deal. I feel sorry for the farm managers who have to keep trying to "put lipstick on this pig."

    • Anonymous says:

      Not a good record at all but I believe the reason why the number of returning turtles is so small is because of there being so many bright lights along the Seven Miles Beach.  Matura Beach on the east side of Trinidad see around 5,000 returning turlles yearly since 1990 along their 6 miles of beach.  Of course the village of Matura is a good distance froom the beach.  They have created an industry  called Nature Seekers around the leatherback turtles and the management of the beach takes tourist on the beach tours during their egg-laying season to watch the turtles.  What is strange is that when a turtle is depositing her eggs she goes into a trance like mode and tourists can get up close and person even touching the turtles and she goes about her business of laying her eggs.  Of course we will never have such results, as I said too much bright lights but it is quite interesting.  Minister in charge of the Boatswain Beach, please do not run oft to Trinidad with a delegation now,  you can google  Matura Beach or Nature Seekers and get all the information you need.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am no troll and you can go google and read the info.  There was also a segment on BBC over the weekend on this endeavour by the folks in Matura.  This was given as a little nugget of information so don't bother with your trolling.  Research it and learn something.

      • Anonymous says:

        Don't undertand the thumbs down on this one. There are turtle friendly lights available. There's no reason to have so much light at night that you can't see the stars anymore.