Archive for July 25th, 2013

Wildlife charity hopeful for turtle farm change

| 25/07/2013 | 28 Comments

(CNS): A spokesperson for the World Society for the Protection of Animals said it had a cordial and realistic meeting with the new government this week when two of its members came to discuss the issues regarding the increasingly controversial and costly turtle farm. Although the WSPA and the CIG remain divided on the substantive issue of breeding turtles for meat, Neil DaCruz said that both he and CEO Mike Baker enjoyed a more positive meeting with the new Cabinet, who listened to some of the proposals to address the myriad issues at the Farm. Although no agreements have been reached, the activists believe that the CIG is keen to make changes that would stop the facility draining $10 million from the public purse each year.

Numbers at the Cayman Turtle Farm are believed to have reached 9,000 animals but the facility it is still haemorrhaging cash. In the emergency interim budget passed in the LA last month following the election, the finance minister was forced to allocate CI$2.5 million to support the farm.

DaCruz said that the new minister for the environment, the director of the DoE, the environmental health minister, the minister for planning and the tourism minister met with him and Baker this week and were prepared to discuss some of the problems.

“We have opened a more positive channel of communication, and while we understand the fundamental issue of supplying the local population with meat is not going to be discussed at this stage, the new government listened and discussed some of the other issues, such as handling, husbandry, the numbers and the head start programme,” Da Cruz said.

The activist said that at this stage the WSPA understands that the need to breed meat for the local population was not something that they expected would be a matter for discussion. But, he said, government was willing to listen to ideas about reducing the numbers of turtles held at the facility and was open to consideration about the release programme and whether that was the best way to help with the conservation of wild turtles.

The activists have proposed that the CIG examine the market for meat and separate the local demand from that of tourists, which is believed to be very small in comparison, and perhaps introduce a ban on the sale of meat to visitors.

Da Cruz said that for the first time the WSPA were not simply dismissed as agitators and that their concerns were listened to, especially as the government is also looking for a way to address the problems at the facility.

While changing the cultural position on allowing the local consumption of meat may be some time away, DaCruz and Baker are hopeful of improving current husbandry conditions, reducing the numbers at the farm and a review of the farm’s release programme, known as head starting, he said.

The WSPA published a damning report about conditions at the CTF last year, whichstirred up considerable controversy when documentary evidence of poor conditions at the facility were dismissed. The report also came in the wake of the loss of hundreds of turtles due to technical problems. Despite photographs showing evidence of cannibalism, disease, birth defects polluted water and overcrowded conditions, the CTF went on the defensive and attacked the activists rather than addressing the fundamental problems at the farm. Although the farm pressed its conservation credentials and undertook its own report, which led to some positive changes, many of the concerns raised by the WSPA remain.

Related article on CNS:

Report-slams-turtle-farm

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