A 350-pound green turtle was saved from slaughter Thursday morning after environmental officers found it tied up in a yard in West Bay.
“The turtle was lying in a wheel barrow, there was a knife and a machete next to it and some sour oranges…it looks like we got there just in time; they were about to butcher it” said Mark Orr, a Marine Parks supervisor with the Department of Environment. The officer pointed out tracks in the sand clearly showing where the female green turtle came ashore to lay her eggs on the public beach in West Bay. believes the turtle came out of the water in the early morning.
Acting on information received by Chief Marine Parks Officer Ladner Watler, the Environmental officers swooped down on a property across from the beach on Town Hall Road and the turtle was found in the wheelbarrow among some bushes. Mr. said the suspect fled the scene, apparently when he saw officers approaching, but a warrant has now been issued for an individual.
The turtle was subsequently released back into the water unharmed, but prior to its release, Research Officer Janice Blumenthal tagged the turtle and took DNA samples and various measurements.
‘We estimate it was in excess of 21-years-old and it is probably one of only 10 green turtles that are still breeding here in the Cayman Islands.’
Cayman was once the home of one of the largest green turtle breeding grounds on earth and each year it estimated about 1 million turtles came ashore to lay eggs. Hunting of the turtle has brought the nesting population to the brink of extinction.
Ms Blumenthal says a similar situation existed in Florida and Hawaii and they went from having only about 100 nests annually to more than 1,000.
Turtles breed from late April to September and last year there were 100 nests recorded here in the Cayman Islands. From the tracks on the beach and eye witness sightings, the Department of Environment has determined that about 20 turtles (10 green turtles and 10 loggerheads) are still using Cayman’s beaches to nest. Each turtle comes ashore and deposits eggs at least six times in a season. It is believed the turtle that was butchered on the Sand Hole Road on 16 August managed to dig two nests before a poacher grabbed her. Janice Blumenthal said, “The chances that one of these eggs will hatch and grow to be a mature turtle are slim, only one egg in a thousand makes it to become fully grown adult turtle.”