London-based animal welfare organization World Animal Protection has issued comments sharply critical of the Cayman Turtle Farm’s renewed release program and, specifically, Saturday’s release of 15 green sea turtles at Barkers Beach.

In a statement on Tuesday, the organization, which has offices in 15 countries, claimed the Cayman Turtle Farm “endangers wild turtles” and condemned the farm “for placing wild turtle populations in jeopardy by resuming its controversial ‘wild release program.’”

Saturday’s surprise release – marking World Turtle Day – was the farm’s first since suspending the program in 2012 after World Animal Protection warned that releasing ill-maintained turtles into the wild potentially threatened endangered populations. The group cited a litany of problems at the farm, including bacteria-laden tanks, disease and cannibalism among the animals, and substandard husbandry and management practices.

Recalling the episode in a Monday statement detailing the weekend releases, the turtle farm said it had “satisfied itself through extensive testing and available scientific data that releasing CTF turtles will not pose any medical risk to wild turtle populations, and consequently CTF has now ended its self-imposed moratorium on turtle releases.”

The turtle farm said it plans to release “hundreds of tagged turtles each year both publicly and privately.”

The farm’s managing director, Tim Adam, earlier described a four-year program of testing by the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at the University of Georgia, which pronounced the animals and the farm disease-free, clearing the path for a renewed release program.

However, World Animal Protection’s head of wildlife policy and research, Neil D’Cruze, said on Tuesday: “The Turtle Farm resuming its release program is a ticking time bomb for wild turtles in the Caribbean and around the world.”

He called it “staggering” that the turtle farm had resumed its “controversial” release program. “The facility has a phenomenally poor record of caring for turtles, demonstrated by the 1,268 turtles that died from a clostridium outbreak in 2014. It is incomprehensible that they appear to be allowed to make this decision for themselves.”

Between April and July 2014, nearly 1,270 turtles died from the intestinal bacterial infection – related to botulism – in five farming tanks of 1-year-old turtles, although officials said the infection had not spread beyond the area.

At the time, Mr. Adam said of the problem, “It came quite suddenly and it was very deadly. Chief Research Officer Walter Mustin declared in September 2015 the turtle population had “recovered completely.”

This week, however, Mr. D’Cruze said the clostridium outbreak was “a stark reminder of the disease risks posed by the farm – diseases that could be passed on to wild populations via the release of farmed turtles into the wild.”

The organization is calling for the farm to end its release program.

Mr. D’Cruze acknowledged, however, he was unfamiliar with the Infectious Diseases Laboratory studies and the “all-clear” conclusions.

“Neither the IDL study or any conclusions have been shared with World Animal Protection,” he said. “Our understanding is that even the Department of the Environment was not provided with any information until one day before the releases took place.”

He added, “Our main question at this point is: “[Was] the IDL testing conditions at the farm during the 2014 clostridium outbreak? If so, their efforts failed to protect the 1,268 captive turtles that died as a result. We know that the farm hid this outbreak from the public – who is to say that the same thing is not happening again? Only this time, wild turtle populations are also being placed at risk.”

He called Saturday’s release “nothing more than a token gesture, a stunt,” claiming it could not be “taken seriously as an attempt to protect wild turtle populations.

The Cayman Turtle Farm’s Mr. Adam declined to comment on Mr. D’Cruze’s remarks.

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, however, rejected Mr. D’Cruze’s call for official oversight of turtle farm releases and also rejected suggestions the farm should have contacted her department about the clostridium outbreak.

“DoE does not have legal authority over CTF releases and there is no requirement to notify DoE that releases will take place,” she said, although pointing out the National Conservation Law will require approval for releases from the National Conservation Council.

The department, she said, “was not aware of the clostridium outbreak prior to its reporting in the press,” but also pointed out “there is no legal requirement for CTF to report these incidents to DoE, as DoE does not regulate captive animal attractions/farms.

“DoE has documented farm-released turtles nesting in the wild,” Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said, recording their contributions to critically reduced populations in a research partnership with Spain’s University of Barcelona.

The department “is not against the release program. Our position is that we need to complete a proper review of the disease-risk evidence before we are in a position to endorse further releases from the farm.

“As DoE staff are not sea turtle disease experts, we will be reaching out to external experts.”



  1. Only one thing I see wrong with the release program is that we should release more; at least two turtles a month back to the wild ocean. It would be very nice to have two tourist win that ticket award each month while visiting the farm to do the release with their picture taken.
    Mr. D”cruze , I don’t know what you are talking about, because where were you in the past 500 years when Cayman was called “Islas de Las Tortugas” after discovery. Turtle meat was the food to eat, and no one died of cancer or diabetes.
    I am very pleased that the release program has begun again.
    I will not confirm that the turtles at the farm has a poor record of caring. The farm is well looked after by people who consume and care what they eat, while also want to have the best show at entertaining the visitors, locals and tourists.
    Chickens live in clostridium conditions all year round yet they are on your plate every day with no one saying a word.
    WAP is just on a witch hunt for the Cayman turtle farm, and I would suggest check someone else back yard.
    The one thing I do not want our turtle farm to do is to give away our “Kemp’s Riley Turtles. I also believe I am speaking for others on that request. They should stay, and as we breed more then we can do a release program to our own wild. We got the variety of feeding grass, the clean blue ocean waters and white sand beaches for nesting.

  2. I agree 100% with Twyla.

    WAP could find a million farms that are far more cruel to their animals than our Turtle Farm. Starting with chickens in dark cages so small they cannot turn around. But let’s not forget cattle, pigs and sheep. All sentient creatures with more intelligence and ability to feel pain than turtles.

    It is always a special moment for me to see wild turtles while SCUBA diving here. So please let’s go on releasing them.

  3. As a scuba diver I think it is great that green turtles are released. There are not enough of them. If the Turtle Farm also is raising Kemp’s Riley Turtles they should also release them. With over 1500 dives in Cayman waters I have never seen one here.

  4. I just don’t know why the WAP don’t have their facts straight about things before they start objecting, or this just how activists do it, or just object because of who they are and can.
    I agree with the release of the turtles, but I think that a little more research could go into it. Because I don’t know how the turtles would act by not hatching on a beach and making their own natural exit to the ocean, to those that hatch at the farm and then released to ocean. I wonder what inhabitants/power boats have to do with their natural inhabiting. To also know how the released turtles on a less inhabited place like Little Cayman would do compared to been released on Grand Cayman.


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