Hotline help for turtles

There’s a little more help on the way to safeguard the turtles that crawl onto Cayman’s beaches to nest.

The Department of Environment has launched a Turtle Hotline so the public can report when they spot a turtle nest.

“We are asking members of the public to call our new DoE Turtle Hotline 938-NEST (938-6378) whenever sea turtle tracks or nests are found,” said DoE Research Officer Janice Blumenthal.

Department of Environment staff and volunteers patrol the beaches four days a week during turtle nesting season to try to locate and protect nests, but since they cannot visit each beach every day they are appealing to the public for help.

The goal is to find all turtle nests and protect them from the time they are laid until they hatch two months later.

Nesting season

“While sea turtles spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, from May to November females make their way on shore to lay their eggs. On the beach, nesting turtles, turtle nests, and baby turtles are extremely vulnerable. We hope that with the new and easy to remember Turtle Hotline number, members of the public will be better able to assist in sea turtle conservation efforts,” she said.

Data collected by DoE over the past decade shows that Cayman Islands sea turtle nesting has begun to increase, but many of the nests are at risk because they are on highly developed areas, such as Seven Mile Beach where they are susceptible to threats like lights near the beach, beach driving, heavy equipment operation, bonfires and poaching.

Turn off the lights

The Department of Environment is also asking beachfront property owners and residents to follow guidelines for making beaches safe for turtles. These include:

Reduce beach lighting: turn off, redirect, or shield any lights that can be seen from the beach during the turtle nesting season. Lights near the beach can lead baby turtles away from the sea and result in their death. Lighting may also deter nesting females from coming ashore.

Remain quiet and stay at a distance if you see a nesting turtle. Flashlights, loud noises, or getting too close might cause the turtle to abandon her nesting attempt.

Remove obstacles such as beach chairs and recreational equipment from the beach at night.

Do not drive on the beach — this can crush turtle nests. Contact DoE before using beach cleaning machines or heavy equipment.

Protect beach vegetation. Vegetation blocks light from buildings, stabilises the beach and encourages turtles to nest.

Do not have bonfires on the beach in summer; use a designated barbecue pit.

Do not rake or cover turtle tracks. Department of Environment staff and volunteers use the tracks to find and protect nests.

Call DoE’s Turtle Hotline if you find a turtle track, nest or baby turtle.

Sea turtles are protected under Cayman Islands Law and turtle poachers face steep fines and imprisonment. If you see anyone harming or taking sea turtles or their eggs call DoE Enforcement or the police (911).

The Department of Environment is also looking for volunteers for the Marine Turtle Beach Monitoring Programme. To volunteer, contact Ms Blumenthal 
at the DoE Turtle Hotline, 
938-NEST or on the general DoE number on 949-8469.

LOCALimage_120172STORY

Janice Blumenthal locates a turtle nest on Seven Mile Beach during last year’s turtle nesting season.
PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
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