Poachers suspected of taking turtle from beach
When Department of Environment’s chief conservation officer Mark Orr got a call from a member of the public Monday saying there was a turtle in her back yard, half a mile inland, he assumed it was a land turtle.
Instead, he found a hawksbill turtle far from home.
“The caller said she had a sea turtle in her back yard. She’d gone out to walk her dog and found the turtle. I thought it must be a land turtle, but she said ‘No, it’s definitely a sea turtle’. I drove in and sure enough, there was a hawksbill turtle crawling around her house,” said Mr. Orr.
He believes the turtle was probably taken by poachers from Barkers beach where she came up from the sea to nest and then transported to the neighbourhood because he was unable to find turtle tracks nearby and also because she did not have scratches or scrapes he would have expected to see if she’d crawled inland by herself. The turtle would have had to cross roads, rough rocky areas and heavy brush to get to the yard in which she was found.
“I am assuming someone took her and flipped her over onto her back, but made the mistake of not tying her up. Turtles, if they’re against a tree or something like that, can push themselves back over, they have so much power in their front flippers,” said Mr. Orr.
“She had some minor injuries to her flippers but nothing major, and some scratches from sliding along a hard surface while on her back,” he said.
He transported the 2.5-foot-long female turtle to Barkers and released her there as he suspects that she had laid eggs at a nest there which he had found earlier.
Mr. Orr said he had no leads on suspects.
Turtles are targeted by poachers during nesting season because they tend to return to the same area of beach to nest several times during nesting season.
Last year was a record year for sea turtle nesting in the Cayman Islands, with 270 nests being found on local beaches, nearly 100 more nests than in 2011. The previous record year was 2010, when 246 nests were found.