The Cayman Islands Turtle Centre released six two-year-old ‘head-started’ turtles into the sea at Governors Beach on Saturday, watched by hundreds of residents and tourists.
Tim Adam, CEO of the Cayman Turtle Centre, said the release, and the wide interest in it, enabled the public to learn more about sea turtles and the threats they face.
Members of the public had been invited to enter a competition “to have the privilege of being the ones to tell the turtles farewell and walk down the beach with them, to give them a little pat, and give them encouragement to get into the sea”, Adam said.
“There were hundreds of people here,” he said, “and our objective is during these releases we give a talk that explains what the different threats are that turtles face in the wild, for example, the plastics in the ocean, and encouraging people, once they fall love with turtles, which we hope they have done by being here today, to protect them.”
He said the newly released turtles will have a better chance of survival, against predators and other threats, than hatchlings. “They are much larger than hatchlings and much more able to survive in the wild,” he said.
Adams said that even though these six turtles were bred in captivity in the Cayman Turtle Centre, their instincts would direct them on how to navigate and find food once they were released into the ocean for the first time.
Earlier this year, a report following a six-year study showed that 90% of the wild green turtles in local waters had a direct DNA family link to farmed turtles, meaning that many of the turtles released in their infancy by the Cayman Turtle Centre, formerly known as the Cayman Turtle Farm, returned home to nest once they grew to adulthood.
“The turtles we released will be back in 20-plus years from today,” Adam said, “because they have set their ‘GPS’ to come back to Cayman to mate and for the females to come back to Cayman and lay their eggs.”