The ongoing Turtle Release Programme being run by Divetech in conjunction with marine artist Ron Steven “Rogest” and Boatswain’s Beach is becoming the latest activity to do in Grand Cayman.
A total of 40 turtles have been released since its re-start in March of this year, said a press release.
Originally started in 2002, the programme was successful in releasing about 16 turtles a week from the Cayman Turtle Farm back into the wild, but lost momentum following Hurricane Mitch and then Ivan, which reduced the stock at the Cayman Turtle Farm, putting the initiative on hold for a while.
‘Both Cayman residents and visitors to the island, along with many folks from overseas, have sponsored turtle releases, and these caring people deserve a big thank you for adopting and releasing one to two-year-old (“head-started”) green sea turtles back into the wild, helping to replenish the stock of green sea turtles into the Cayman waters,’ the release notes.
While it may be up to 40 years before these turtles breed and hopefully return to Cayman beaches to lay their eggs, the replenishment programme is meant to enhance the population of green sea turtles for both now and for future generations in Cayman. Turtles released as ‘head-started’ have a much higher chance of survival than hatchlings.
As one example, during Kids Sea Camp, paintings were auctioned for cash used to buy turtles and a total of 14 turtles were released thanks to the bidding of Leslie McClintick, Elizabeth Szots and Debbie and Spencer Lawes, all US visitors.
The yearling turtles are tagged with a titanium flipper tag on their fore-flipper which identifies an individual animal. The majority of tag returns have come from Cuba, with returns also from Honduras, Venezuela, the United States, Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Information thus far correlated suggests that the turtles adapt well to natural conditions when released as yearlings, and that their release site in the Cayman Islands dictates whether or not they migrate away from the Islands or stay in Cayman waters, the release said.
In addition to having the satisfaction of releasing a turtle to the wild, participants receive a certificate, digital photos of the release and a Turtle Print created by artist Rogest. Turtle releases can be done from abroad for $185 or in an interactive participatory three-hour tour and release for $240.
In reference to the recent slaughter of a female green turtle that was about to lay her eggs on a West Bay beach Nancy Easterbrook of Divetech said, ‘Reading about the large female turtle that was taken off the beach is such a tragedy. While so many people are trying to help the cause, this one act alone has taken away decades of hatchlings from Caymans’ wild turtle stock. We work hard to do turtle releases and the net benefit is devastated by incidents such as this. We hope that more generous supporters will come forward and more turtles will be released back to the wild”.