Brac turtle patrol seeks volunteers

The Cayman Brac Turtle Patrol is looking for volunteers to help keep track of turtle nests. 

Turtle nesting season begins next month and continues until November. 

A meeting at which volunteers can sign up and learn more about patrolling the beaches will be held at the Brac Reef Conference Centre at 9am Saturday morning, 27 April.  

Bonnie Scott Edwards, who helps to organise the patrols, said: “Anyone who is interested in learning about turtle patrol or volunteering to help this season is asked to attend.” 

Turtle patrols begin on 1 May. 

Last year was the first year the volunteer patrol group monitored the beaches. They checked beaches on the Brac each morning for signs of turtle tracks, known as “batabano”. If the tracks lead to what looks like a nest, the patrol members log the location so that they can return when the eggs in the nest are ready to hatch two months later. Patrollers brush out signs of the tracks and the nest surface to deter poachers. 

They also relocate nests that are in danger of being inundated by water or affected by artificial light. 

Once the eggs hatch, the baby turtles climb through the sand to the surface and make their way out to sea. However, baby turtles can become disoriented in artificial light and go inland rather than into the sea, so owners of beachside properties are encouraged to turn off lights during hatching periods.  

The turtle patrollers monitor the nests and record the number of eggshells, alive or dead hatchlings and unhatched eggs. They also release hatchlings they find left behind in nests into the sea. Sometimes, if the baby turtles emerge during the day, the volunteers collect them and keep them safe until nightfall when they are released, as if they enter the sea at daylight, they can become easy prey for marine birds and fish. 

Similar patrol groups also work in Grand Cayman and Little Cayman.  

Last year, the Brac turtle patrol found 46 confirmed loggerhead and green sea turtle nests with more than 5,000 hatchlings. 

“Of these, over 1,000 baby turtles would not have made it out alive without the intervention of Cayman Brac Turtle Patrol volunteers,” said Ms Scott Edwards.  

More than 20 volunteers regularly walked the beaches in the mornings last year, looking for tracks where mother turtles had come ashore to lay eggs.  

Ms Scott Edwards said the Brac patrol works closely with the schools and National Trust to teach children about sea turtle conservation and invited all those interested to come out in the evenings to help release hatchlings.  

“Some Brakkers said they had lived here their entire lives and had never seen turtle hatchlings,” she said.  

“We learned a lot in our first year and are looking forward to even more success this year. Everyone who wants to learn and help is welcome. No matter how much or how little time you have to contribute, you can make a difference,” she added. 

The group’s records are turned over to the Department of Environment to be added to the database of information it collects on turtle nesting in the Cayman Islands. The department has been monitoring turtle nest numbers in the Cayman Islands since 1998. 

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