The first sea turtle nest of the 2017 nesting season was found on April 1 – April Fool’s Day – setting a new record for the earliest nest ever recorded on Cayman Islands’ beaches.
The Department of Environment’s turtle program coordinator Janice Blumenthal said, “When the nest was reported, we suspected an April Fool’s joke as we have never had a nest this early, but it has been confirmed as the first turtle nest of the 2017 nesting season. With that, we have begun our 20th year of DoE turtle nesting beach monitoring.”
Research officers responded to the report and confirmed a turtle nest laid on March 31.
According to Ms. Blumenthal, turtle nesting season in the Cayman Islands typically begins in May, though nests are occasionally found in late April. The previous record for the earliest nest was April 12, 2012.
Throughout the season volunteers will monitor the beaches to protect nests from poachers and to record data on the number of nesting females.
The Department of Environment has been gathering data on nesting sea turtles since the late 1990s and has seen numbers rebound from just 30 nests to 430 across all three islands last year.
“During the turtle nesting season, we ask members of the public to avoid driving on the beach and to seek permission before operating heavy equipment on the beach or lighting beach bonfires,” Ms. Blumenthal said. “Report anyone poaching or disturbing a turtle, and contact Department of Environment for information on turtle-friendly lighting.
“Artificial lights that shine onto the beach discourage female turtles from nesting and are a critical threat to baby turtles. When baby turtles hatch at night, they go in the direction of the brightest light they can see. If this is not the moon and stars reflecting on the ocean’s surface, they will go toward land, where they die from exhaustion, dehydration, vehicles, or predators.”
She said there are simple ways to mitigate this threat, including directing lights away from the ocean, planting vegetation in front of lights or using “turtle friendly” bulbs.
The DoE is requesting anyone who witnesses turtle poaching to report it by calling the DoE on 916-4271 or call 911. Anyone who finds a turtle nest should call the DoE’s sea turtle hotline at 938-NEST or email [email protected] Volunteers are also needed for the 2017 turtle nesting season.
For more information, see the department’s website at www.doe.ky/turtles.