Little Cayman volunteers captured a rare moment on Saturday when they watched the first turtle nest hatching of the season.
Volunteers with the Department of Environment’s Marine Turtle Research Conservation Program had been monitoring the nest as one of 30 on Little Cayman, and witnessed the last four turtles struggle out and make their way to the ocean.
Volunteer and Southern Cross Club manager Jennifer Mills said although she has been a volunteer for 11 years, it was a rare opportunity to catch a hatching.
“It was incredibly exciting because we watched the baby turtles take their first steps to the sea. To watch them go into the water – it’s a huge relief because you know they have at least made it that far and they have a long way to go,” Ms. Mills said.
“We could not contain our excitement on Saturday. To witness such a wonder of nature is, for me, overwhelmingly wonderful. I feel very privileged to have been part of it.”
Ms. Mills said although they missed the start of the hatching, tracks from the nest indicated the other turtles had already made it safety to sea.
“When the nesting is in full swing there are so many nests here, it is essential for the whole community to come together to support this project and together do all we can to protect our turtles,” Ms. Mills said.
“We are very lucky here on Little Cayman to have a community which genuinely cares about the island; our residents are conservation minded and have an avid interest in protecting the marine environment.”
During turtle breeding season from May until November, volunteers monitor Cayman beaches four mornings a week to spot, mark and track turtle nests. Volunteers cover exposed nests to protect them from poachers and predators.
Program coordinator Paul Chin said hatching was expected to start on Seven Mile Beach in about two weeks.
Mr. Chin said residents were asked to report any turtle nests to the DOE and said additional volunteers were always needed in the program, particularly at this time of the season.
“Volunteers are the key to us doing very well in the season,” Mr. Chin said.
He said residents who live on beachfronts could help by using turtle friendly lights, or by turning off outside lights from May to November.
“Keep the bright lights to a minimum, that increases the survival of the baby turtles – it helps them make it to the ocean,” Mr. Chin said.
Cayman waters are home to four types of sea turtles including green, loggerhead, hawksbill and leatherback turtles.
Residents who find dead or injured turtles or nests are asked to phone the Sea Turtle hotline on 938-6378. To volunteer for the Marine Turtle Beach Monitoring Program, email the Department of Environment at [email protected]