You know it must be springtime in the Cayman Islands when the first turtle nests are recorded on the islands’ beaches.
It will likely be another two months before the hatchlings break free from their shells and make their way to the sea, but nesting season is officially under way after the discovery of a nest on the south coast of Grand Cayman on Friday, April 12.
Cayman’s nesting sea turtles have been brought back from the brink of extinction over the past two decades. But the population remains fragile, and environment officials and volunteers maintain a vigil throughout nesting season, which typically runs to November, to protect against poaching and other threats.
DoE research officer Janice Blumenthal said 2019 will be the 21st year of the Department of Environment’s beach monitoring programme.
There were 406 nests recorded across all three islands during the 2018 season, compared with just 15 when surveys began in the Sister Islands in 1998, and 23 when the project was extended to Grand Cayman in 1999.
Blumenthal said, “It is very encouraging to see such an early nest this year and we hope that the trend of generally rising nest numbers can continue.”
The department has established a ‘Turtle Hotline’ and urges anyone to call and report when they find turtle nests or tracks.
“On the beach, nesting turtles, turtle nests, and baby turtles are extremely vulnerable. The Turtle Hotline makes it possible for members of the public to assist in sea turtle conservation effort by alerting DoE when they find turtle nests or see nesting turtles or baby turtles in danger,” she said.
Last year, a call to the hotline alerted DoE volunteers to storm waves flooding nests on Seven Mile Beach, resulting in the rescue of 500 hatchlings.
The Turtle Hotline can be reached on 938-NEST.