A late-night beach runner who almost tripped over a “moving rock” has prompted reminders from the Department of Environment about peak turtle hatching season, now under way.
The nesting turtle that was mistaken for a rock drew a crowd on Seven Mile Beach while officers from the DOE worked to tag the animal and ensure its safety. A second turtle began its journey onto the beach to nest, but retreated back into the water after it was spooked by the crowd.
Janice Blumenthal, a research officer with the DOE, said Seven Mile Beach is the Cayman Islands’ most active nesting beach, with most eggs hatching between July and November.
“If you see a nesting turtle, remain quiet and stay at a distance. Flashlights, loud noises, or getting too close might cause the turtle to abandon her nesting attempt,” Ms. Blumenthal said.
Turtles lay about 150 eggs per nest, and will nest up to five times each season. Eggs take between 50 and 60 days to hatch.
Ms. Blumenthal said hatchlings find the ocean by heading toward the brightest light closest to the their nest.
“On an undeveloped beach, this is the moon and stars reflecting off the ocean’s surface but artificial lights are often much brighter and lead the baby turtles toward land, where they die from exhaustion, dehydration, vehicles, or predators,” Ms. Blumenthal said.
The turtle survival rate is one in every 1,000.
“For our endangered turtle populations, the most severe threat is artificial lighting on Cayman’s beaches. Every year, baby sea turtles die unnecessarily when they become disorientated by artificial lights.”
Residents are urged to use turtle-friendly lighting, which includes planting vegetation such as hedges in front of lights, lowering and shading lights, and putting security lights on motion detectors.
As part of the DOE’s Marine Turtle Beach Monitoring Program, staff and program volunteers monitor Grand Cayman’s beaches four mornings a week, spotting, marking and tracking the nests, and covering exposed nests to protect them from poachers and predators.
Beachgoers who find hatchlings or nesting turtles should phone the Sea Turtle Hotline on 938-NEST(6378). To volunteer for the Marine Turtle Beach Monitoring Program, email the Department of Environment at [email protected]