One of the Cayman Islands’ most popular turtle nesting beaches will be put under round-the-clock surveillance in a pilot project to help tackle poachers.

Hi-tech security cameras will be installed at ‘Turtle Beach’ in West Bay for four months, starting 1 July. The feed will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week by a US-based security company.

The project is the brainchild of Mike Ridley, a Caymanian based in Miami, Florida. He has raised nearly $12,000 towards the $16,500 cost of implementing the programme.

He hopes the system, which alerts the Department of Environment any time a turtle emerges from the ocean to dig its nest, will help enhance the island-wide monitoring of nesting sea turtles in the Cayman Islands.

He believes it will also deter poachers, allow environmental officials to protect nests and deliver valuable data to Cayman’s conservation programmes.

He said the beach at the end of Sand Hole Road near Boatswains Bay had been identified as one of the most prolific nesting beaches on the island.

“By monitoring the beach,” he said, “we can see precisely how many turtles are nesting there and ensure that their nests are safe.”

Though the DoE already uses volunteers to walk the beaches searching for evidence of nests, Ridley believes cameras will provide more precise data. The cameras will also be linked to a security centre which can advise police or environment enforcement officers whenever a turtle is nesting to allow for proactive protection against poaching.

If necessary, the cameras could also be used for evidence in poaching prosecutions, he said.

If successful, he said, he would seek to raise more funding to allow for similar surveillance on other important nesting beaches.

The DoE is not directly involved with the fundraising effort but has offered technical advice to Ridley. Janice Blumenthal, research officer, said the project had potential.

Mike Ridley is raising money to support turtle conservation in Cayman.

“Sand Hole Road is a critically important sea turtle nesting area where turtles are threatened by poaching,” she said. “This is an exciting effort and we are looking forward to seeing the results of this pilot project.”

Ridley said he hoped to work closely with environment officials and was grateful to the donors who had supported the project, particularly the developers of The Grove housing and residential project on West Bay Road. He also thanked Billy Adam, Tim Adam and Ladner Walter for their support setting up the effort.

Ridley has established a GoFundMe page for those who wish to support the project.

The page states, “Over the past decades, the Cayman Islands has seen unprecedented economic and development growth which has brought many benefits to the island and population. However, this development has meant that natural habitats for animals in the Cayman Islands have been compromised. This is especially disruptive for turtles as where they nest is prime beachfront property.”

It indicates the aim of the project is to support the DoE and the Cayman Turtle Farm in their efforts to safeguard and revive Cayman’s sea turtle populations.

To support the project, go to www.GoFundMe.com/sk23cp-turtle-beach.

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