The Cayman Turtle Farm will be called a “farm” no longer.
Managing Director Tim Adam announced last week that the islands’ most popular land-based tourism attraction will now be known as the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter.
“We believe that the name should fit the function,” Mr. Adam, who has run the organization since January 2010, said during an interview on Friday.
According to the official announcement sent Thursday: “It will be the same popular tourist attraction as before, and will continue to serve schools, conserve turtles and collaborate with other research establishments.”
There will be a separate operation, called Cayman Turtle Products, which will continue to produce and sell turtle meat for the local community. Mr. Adam said the sale of “reasonably priced” turtle meat should continue to reduce the risk of poaching the wild sea turtle population.
The operation, which has been in Cayman since 1968 and which was taken over by the government in 1983, began with one objective: “to meet the demand for turtle meat and other turtle products by breeding and raising [the turtles] in captivity without diminishing the wild population,” according to a statement from the center.
However, Mr. Adam said he believes the center’s primary focus has changed subtly over the years.
“The facility exists in order to keep sea turtles in the wild,” he said. “The cultural element [of eating turtle meat] is very important. But if I had to guess, most of us really feel like the conservation and education piece … is first priority.
“Just considering it a livestock operation is an awful mischaracterization of what we’re doing,” he said.
Mr. Adam denied Friday that splitting the two operations – research/tourism and turtle meat production – was a move toward government hiving off one or both of the turtle center’s functions to private sector interests.
“In terms of splitting it up into two different components, I’m hesitant to say ‘never’ or ‘impossible,’” he said. “But it’s impractical. One has to interact with the other.”
The turtle center has undergone a number of rebrandings over the past decade, switching to the name Boatswain’s Beach in 2007 and back to Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter in 2010. In the local lexicon, it has largely remained “the turtle farm” in spite of the rebranding attempts.
The center has released 31,000 turtles into the wild since its inception and takes in more than 300,000 visitors a year – including about 2,800 local students. In addition to the turtles, it also breeds Cayman parrots.