Sixteen sea turtles bred in captivity at the Cayman Turtle Centre are tasting freedom for the first time, and for the first time in history, the release took place in the waters of Little Cayman.
“We are making history,” proclaimed Cayman Turtle Centre Managing Director Tim Adam.
Dozens of onlookers gathered on the beach at Little Cayman’s Southern Cross Club to witness the release of 16 head-start green sea turtles.
“At least 50% of the green turtle nesting population in Cayman started it’s life as a head start turtle at the Cayman Turtle Centre, and it’s predecessors. That and the fact that they’re coming back it is encouragement to spread this now to the other islands,” said Mr. Adam.
Sea turtle hatchlings face long odds: the scientific community estimates just one in a thousand survive to adulthood. The head start turtles are released at around 18 months to two years of age, which Mr. Adam told Cayman 27 gives them a better shot.
“At a head start size, at least a year old, it gets way better, Maybe 1 in 40, or maybe even better than that, the good news is that we know that they survive, they thrive,” said Mr. Adam.
The hope is, these newly released turtles will one day come back to nest. Little Cayman turtle watcher Frankie Bodden told Cayman 27 while 2018 has been a great nesting year for loggerheads at Point of Sand, greens are in short supply.
“The greens are a little bit late nesting,” he said. “So far, we don’t have any greens on the Point of Sand to my knowledge, and while it should be a fairly good year, hopefully it is just late starting.”
“Now [the turtles] can fend for himself pretty much without all the predators wiping them out,” said Environment Councillor Captain Eugene Ebanks.
He told Cayman 27 head start releases could provide a boost for other sea turtle species
“We have some good ideas to try to re-introduce the hawksbills in [Grand] Cayman, they are not that plentiful in [Grand] Cayman anymore, but there are a lot of them over here, so we are trying to find a way to get some of them over there,” said Captain Ebanks.
For the lucky few who released one of these charismatic animals into the wild: an unforgettable experience.
“We were all just so excited to see the turtles and finally release them.”
The turtles arrived via twin otter aircraft from Grand Cayman, each individually packed in a specialised crate to keep the animal moist in flight.
Cayman Airways and Cayman Turtle Centre are planning to release 50 turtles in Grand Cayman and 50 in the sister islands to celebrate the entities’ 50th anniversaries.