Turtle Farm denies cruelty, disease or genetic defects
(CNS): In the face of further accusations about disease, cruelty and genetic abnormalities at the Cayman Turtle Farm, officials released a second statement Thursday denying the allegations and claiming conservation credentials. As the international campaign against the farm mounts, CTF said there were plans to release 150 turtles this year to add to the 31,000 that have been released during the farm’s 40 plus year history. Following more damning criticism this week, this time from the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), the CTF called the allegations “at best misleading and at worst untrue,” claiming that significant strides had been made to eradicate disease. (Photo: A Turtle with no eyes taken by the WSPA team at the farm earlier this year)
Despite the photographic evidence and other scientific peer reviewed analysis and research presented by the Word Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) recently, the farm also denied that any turtles found at the Cayman Turtle Farm had any of the genetic defects alleged.
“Cases of genetic mutation at the Cayman Turtle Farm are extremely rare, and seem to be in line with the incidence of similar defects in the wild populations,” the Turtle Farm said in another lengthy press statement in the face of the increasing international criticisms.
As the STC announced its backing for the WSPA campaign (which had 49,208 signatures at 8am Friday) to persuade the CTF to move to a purely conservation model and give up farming, it pointed to the dangers posed by releasing farmed turtles into the wild.
“Well-documented diseases found primarily in captive turtles can be spread to wild populations,” the world's oldest marine turtle research and conservation organization said. It said the release programme gives a false impression that conservation can be accomplished simply by breeding turtles in tanks and the releasing them.
“The Cayman Turtle Farm tries to promote its operation as something beneficial to wild turtle populations,” said David Godfrey, Sea Turtle Conservancy Executive Director. “Despite the lack of evidence that the turtle release program actually benefits the wild population, countless individuals around the world are led to believe that the program works and that it is a successful option for saving and restoring wild sea turtle numbers.”
Pushing back against the criticisms, the farm said it was now seeing solid returns on its conservation efforts as tagged adult females return to Cayman beaches to nest in increasing numbers. However, the CTF failed to note that less than a dozen female turtles have actually returned to local beaches.
Refuting allegations about diseases getting into wild populations, the Cayman Turtle Farm said it follows rigorous release protocols for all animals returned to the wild. “Juvenile Green Sea Turtles are selected for release; health checked and given appropriate preventative treatments; and quarantined for 30 days,” it said.
The farm pointed to 150 research papers released over the years, as well as requests for educational internships and research partnerships in support of its claimed conservation efforts.
Even though there have been a number of reported problems in the past regarding the hatch rates, the CTF said 2012 had “been a very positive nesting season” for the Farm, with over 41,000 eggs laid at the facility and an increase in this year’s hatch rate.
“Through recent satellite-tagged turtle releases, we are also able to capture data on the behaviour of Green sea turtles released into the wild – where they go and what they do, and thus far we have seen that the satellite-tracked turtles we have released into the wild have adapted well to their new habitat,” the Farm said.
“The Cayman Turtle Farm tags turtles with a 'living tag' which was developed by Professor John Hendrickson and Lupe Hendrickson of the University of Arizona. This tagging method involves the auto grafting of a small, white dot of belly shell onto the turtle's dark coloured back. This is done when the turtle is only a few days old. As the animal grows, the dot grows with it. This tagging method is tremendously significant as it is the only method whereby a tiny sea turtle hatching may be identified as a 300 pound adult more than 15 years later on a nesting beach.”
Denying any animal cruelty, officials at the Cayman Turtle Farm said animal husbandry was in accordance with internationally accepted humane standards. “We are trying to conserve these turtles, and increase their numbers. Our efforts are devoted to their well-being and care,” the Farm stated.
However, it made no reference to the allegations made by STC about the 300 green turtles that perished recently as a result of them being left to burn in the sun when a holding tank malfunctioned during a leak repair.
The CTF said, however, that its primary focus was on a “unique, safe and sustainable tourism attraction” that also supported the research and conservation of sea turtles. “The Cayman Turtle Farm looks forward to directly addressing the WSPA’s allegations, and by extension the STC’s support of this campaign, with an independent review of our operations scheduled for December 2012,” the Farm officials added.
It is not clear if the review will also look at the financial operations at the farm which continues to draw down a subsidy from government each year of in excess of CI$10 million. Despite charging visitors to the facility an entrance fee and having tripled the price of the meat it produces in 2010, the facility continues to be a significant drain on public resources.
See full statement from CTF below.
|CTF statement 18Oct12.doc||53.5 KB|
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