Poachers evade police in an early-morning getaway, making off with an endangered sea turtle and striking a police vehicle in the process.
Police told Cayman 27 officers responded to a ‘turtle in distress’ call along West Bay beach Tuesday (17 July) morning, signalling a white Honda to stop. Instead, the driver fled, damaging the left rear of the squad car.
Before making their mash-up getaway, Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre Managing Director Tim Adam said turtle poachers had two interactions with Turtle Centre employees hired to monitor turtle nests on West Bay beach.
He said late Monday (16 July) night, one employee managed to convince a would-be poacher to leave the endangered animal alone, and the turtle returned to the sea.
A few hours later, the turtle had returned, and a different employee on night watch duty confronted a group again disturbing its nesting attempt.
“A turtle would have loved that spot, to come up and lay her eggs,” said Mr. Adam, describing the spot where one of his night watchmen confronted turtle poachers in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
“He saw the turtle, he saw people going over to interfere with it, he went over there to talk them out of it and explained that they shouldn’t do it, and according to his report, they pulled a knife on him,” said Mr. Adam.
That’s when Mr. Adam said his night watchman called police, who, according to police were on patrol in the Barker’s area at the time.
“Apparently it took some time for the police to come, and unfortunately by then, the poacher and the accomplices that he had rounded up by then had the time to get the turtle and take the turtle and put it into the vehicle, and they sped off,” said Mr. Adam.
He told Cayman 27 taking of endangered sea turtles is a crime under the law, as well as against society.
“The people who do the poaching, the people who helped the poacher, and the people who buy from the poachers, I regard them as conducting themselves like parasites in our community, sucking the very life blood out of a very important element of her tourism industry,” said Mr. Adam.
He estimates the annual impact of one adult nesting turtle to Cayman’s economy is in the neighborhood of $25,000 and more than $1.5 million over the lifetime of the animal.
“Butchering it and selling it, the most that you’re going to make is a few hundred dollars, and then it is done,” said Mr. Adam.
He compared the poachers’ shortsighted and brazen act to outright thievery.
“That is taking bread out of the mouths of our children,” said Mr. Adam.
If caught, he hopes those responsible get the justice they deserve.
“There should be a severity that matches how severely this impact is on the current and future generation of Caymanians,” said Mr. Adam.
Mr. Adam commended the courage of his night watchmen for doing their best to thwart and report this crime.
Under the National Conservation Law, disturbing, molesting, or taking turtles without a license is an offence carrying a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and four years in jail.
The RCIPS told Cayman 27 the incident is still under investigation, and that police are interested in hearing from anyone who may have seen this incident take place.