Turtle hatchlings burned in abandoned bonfire

| 18/09/2015 | 44 Comments
Cayman News Service

Burned turtle hatchling (Photo by Lucy Collyer)

(CNS): Around two dozen turtles that hatched on a South Sound beach were killed in a bonfire Wednesday night. Researchers believe the green turtle hatchlings were attracted to the embers of the unauthorized beach bonfire after emerging from their nest nearby. “When they emerge from their nests, hatchling turtles move in the direction of the brightest light they can see,” explained DoE Research Officer Janice Blumenthal. “If this is not the moon and stars reflecting off the ocean’s surface, they often crawl in the wrong direction, away from the sea.”

She added, “In this case, the turtles were most likely initially disoriented by residential lights on the beach and then by the glowing embers of a bonfire. They appear to have been killed by the heat of the fire.”

Bonfires require approval from the Department of Environmental Health (DEH) but whoever built the fire involved in this incident had not received a permit. Officials from the DEH urged the public to apply for permission for any fire by contacting them at 949-6696. Fires should never be left unattended and must be fully extinguished before whoever built them leave the area, the DEH stated.

Despite Wednesday night’s tragedy, this nesting season is proving to me a more positive one for endangered turtles, especially on Little Cayman, where researchers have counted 156 nests so far this year.

The figure is impressive as the first comprehensive survey, which was undertaken 16 years ago, found just 15 and Blumenthal said the numbers reflect a general trend of increasing turtle nests across all three islands. While the unnecessary loss of hatchlings to carelessness this week is a significant blow, a tremendous amount of work is being done by the DoE to combat the pressures on turtles and increase the wild population.

With some 200 nests around Grand Cayman, which had fallen to as little as 30 when the surveys were first conducted, Blumenthal said the increase was down to much better protection for the nesting sites and the reduction in official take from the sea. But although the numbers are growing, she warned that the population remains critically small and the threats to its continued growth are greater than ever. Development, beach erosion and poaching are all increasing.

“Illegal take continues to be one of the most serious problems,” she warned, adding that nesting female turtles are still taken by poachers every season, despite the best efforts of the DoE and vigilant members of the community.

Any questions on turtle nesting or turtle-friendly lighting should be directed to DoE at 949-8469 or to the DoE’s Sea Turtle Hotline at 938-NEST (938-6378).

Cayman News Service

Burned turtle hatchlings (Photo by Lucy Collyer)

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Category: Crime, Land Habitat, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (44)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good to see those that eat endangered animals in full on defensive mode. Amazing that you can get wifi in a cave.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I thought we were not supposed to set any fires at all in the open – as a health hazard (among other reasons I guess). It is one of these many laws we have that is constantly ignored. The biggest burner of bush in my district is a policeman. A Caymanian policeman.

  3. Sharkey says:

    I say that the government need to make a law that say no fire’s on the beaches, with a 5 thousand fine , 2 years in prison , just because we have these kind of I’ll responsible people that leave a fire burning, and their garbage , these are the kind of people who have no respect for Law or environment where we all live.

  4. Sharkey says:

    I think that DOE needs to be a little more educated themselves on the turtle survival program. When the turtles hatch they head straight to the ocean, if this fire is in between the nest and the ocean, the little turtle would go through the fire or the hot coals that were left there . Why do DOE give permission to do fire’s on the beaches during the turtle nestling season ? I’m sorry for the lost of all the little turtles, and I hope DOE see this and learn more on how to make survival program more successful . When these turtle nest are found they should be properly marked and post signs of laws and penalties for disturbing the turtle nest , and don’t forget the enforcement of these laws.

  5. Eats like a rabbit... says:

    I just despise ‘eeediots. Heartless, dumbass idiots!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is a clear case of lack of public education. We need proper signs on the beach as well as radio and tv announcements during nesting season. The DOE have a good idea of when they expect a hatch and should do nighttime patrols. I remember last year along a South Sound beach they hatched and went inland towards a street light and were killed on the road.

    • Anonymous says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Every citizen should know when turtle nesting season is and nests should be marked and blocked off like in other countries. There was a video at Underwater Film Festival this year that showed the efforts of citizens in Greece to safeguard nests during this season – great care was made not to pollute the beaches with light or molest the nests – nothing close to those efforts here anymore.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The bonfire is not the problem is the IDIOTS who don’t extinguish the damn fire! Remember some years ago in Cayman Brac how a little child’s feet were burned so severly she had to seek overseas treatment because of the IDIOTS who left one smouldering there on the beach? It is irresponsible and there’s gonna be a worst outcome one time! If you light a fire you MUST ensure its extinguished. I don’t wanna see a ban on bonfires but something will have to give if these are the end results

    • Anonymous says:

      There are plenty of accompanying and coincident problems with many Cayman beach bonfires: they are held late after bars close, they are loud without care for neighbors, no care is taken with all the nails from all the shipping palettes, the booze bottles and cans, the cigarette butts, the bottle caps, the pothead snack wrappers and fast food trash, the used lady-products and toilet paper, and all the other garbage that daytime people then have to clean up. Get a fire permit, dig a hole, have a shovel, a bucket and a garbage bag; someone responsible needs to remain sober long enough to clean up before the party disbands and then DUIs off on our roadways to be our next road fatalities. Or realize it is already very late and nobody really needs any more booze or drugs, or to be driving around in that condition, and call it a night.

  8. El Tiempo Gigante says:

    Yes Anon 7:23am with your Cayman kind nasty little Innuendo but we know exactly who it is that is on that beach at night ??? If it was Caymanians the police would have been called along time ago!

  9. ellie says:

    I have just emailed this article to the World Animal Protection organization for international exposure. The Cayman Islands think too high of themselves.

  10. Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      You are an idiot.

    • Shut up!!!!!!!!! says:

      If I see this stupid word “Caymankind” one more time, I think I’m going to lose my mind. Stupider marketing campaign ever. Also to the loser that keeps using that word after every sad headline… as a Caymanian I can tell you that I have never once had a bonfire on the beach. I grew up thinking it was illegal. I don’t care how much hate you want to throw at this but… bone fires are MOSTLY an expat thing (I say mostly because I’ve seen a few Caymanians at expat beach parties). I have Facebook evidence to prove it.

      Just stop the Caymankind garbage. I could put the suffix “kind” at the end of any nationality to stereotype to really atrocious and despicable acts cause by yet hat country’s government but I don’t… regardless of the ignorant, arrogant and defamatory comments of some of the commenters on CNS (yes, I called you commenters not “bloggers” because many of you are also ignorant of basic web terminology).

      If the bonfires were really a Caymanian tradition, there would be more outrage from the CNS commenters saying how this practice is bad. But amazingly no one would like the bone fires banned. When it comes to Easter camping though, the one time during non-nesting season that Caymanian actually monopolize the beach and take advantage of their islands, all holy hell breaks out on this site insulting the tradition because you do t want locals in your view.

      Just like these poor little hatchlings… “Caymankind” gets burned no matter what we do. Even if we didn’t do it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Are any signs posted along the beach? Perhaps this will educate those who don’t know. I walk my dogs along this stretch of beach frequently, and in fact have had to enlighten a group of tourists who didn’t know that they were breaking the law. To them, they were just enjoying a night on the beach in the islands.

    • ellie says:

      Perhaps someone would monitor the area during hatching season. And I bet it were not tourists who started the bonfire. It were people who eat turtles and dont give a s..t about anything.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, yes, let’s put signs up so that the poachers will know exactly where to find them.
      The law is the law.
      There is no excuse just because you are ignorant of that law.

      • Anonymous says:

        Perhaps the poster was suggesting putting up signs on the beaches to say that lighting fires is illegal in the Cayman Islands? Perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to jump to the wrong conclusion like so many others do on here.

        • Anonymous says:

          Have you read any of this?? Many of the commenters here state to post a sign for turtle nesting in the area. Dingdong.
          Wake up!

          • Anonymous says:

            Newsflash: the turtle poachers know when nesting is – they rub their hands together with glee every year. The signs would be for people that generally don’t know any better, but may want to. That would be helpful.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Still less barbaric than eating them.

    • Just responding to an idiot says:

      I hope you are a vegetarian, cause to say eating an animal is barbaric would be hypocritical to say the least!!

      P.S. Even Jesus ate fish!!

    • Pat Steadman says:

      Some of these comments are heart-wrenching cruel and inhumane. No wonder their authors wouldn’t put a name to the comments. For example I can’t help but respond to the gruesome inhumanity of Anonymous 18/09/2015 at 3:47 pm:
      So do you really want people to believe it would be “still less barbaric” to burn chickens alive in a fire, rather than humanely putting them down before processing them for meat?
      Have you ever watched (live or on video documentary) a chicken being humanely put down for meat production, and have you ever imagined one being led into a fire alive (I sure hope there is no video of such an atrocity)? So you mean you do not see any difference between humane meat production and carelessly thoughtlessly burning an animal alive?
      I just hope no animal is so unlucky as to be dependent on you for caring.
      And I hope it wasn’t you that carelessly left a smoldering bonfire unattended. Having those gruesome outcomes on your conscience is not something I would wish on anybody, even one that makes such awfully insensitive remarks as you did.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks for answering that damn yahyah @ 3:47 18/9 ! Here’s a lil something for that author to remember for the future:- Put brain in gear before opening mouth in these instances before writing asinine commentary!!

      • Anonymous says:

        No, I disagree. Eating turtle is more barbaric because it is the deliberate killing of an endangered animal. Only knuckle draggers would do it. This incident was terrible, but unintentional. The barbarism is in the intent.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Why protect them when you eat them anyway..

    • Pat Steadman says:

      Anonymous 18/09/2015 at 2:48 pm:
      Do you think about what you say before you post it anonymously?
      So you mean to say you would be OK with seeing calves perish by careless fires too?
      And are you suggesting Caymanians shouldn’t protect wild sea turtles, because Caymanians eat farmed sea turtles?

  14. Anonymous says:

    just another day on the land of non-enforcement……………………

  15. Anonymous says:

    🙁 Poor things.

  16. Anonymous says:

    If they don’t have them poached they BBQ them instead.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Too many selfish, unthinking idiots burning things without a fire permit, leaving bottles, palette nails, used sexual garbage, charred debris and unextinguished embers for daylight people to clean up. Add this disgrace to the list.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Oh no…!! 🙁

  19. Anonymous says:

    Eat those like scallops….

  20. Anonymous says:

    I am beyond sick of the idiots who keep making bon fires in South Sound!!! I was there a few weeks ago in the afternoon and a fire was smouldering and re-igniting and there were mosquito spray bottles and other flammables in the fire as well- who are you idiots?? Can the police please do something about this- they are going to set an entire property on fire. A**holes!

    • Anonymous says:

      You are just sulking because you were not invited and the women at my barbie were hot.

      • Anonymous says:

        To 19/9 @ 12:52 a,m, I am not the writer of that comment but I am so shocked you would say something stupid like that realizing you were the cause of the death of 24 little turtles – does that not bother you??? Get some sense in that head of yours!!! I wonder how those women feel now???

      • SKEPTICAL says:

        It is probably a reasonable assumption that your IQ will never match your age. Don’t know what is an IQ- what a surprise.

    • Anonymous says:

      11:53 – did you report the fire to the police so they can put the area on their (admittedly long) watch list? (assuming from your comment that it’s common in that I area, otherwise it’s only the helicopter that will be able to spot random unpermitted fires.)

  21. Anonymous says:

    So sad. I hope those responsible will have the decency to warn others about having bonfires during turtle nesting season. Let this be a lesson to all of us.

    • frangipani says:

      Unfortunately we can’t depend on Police do do anything they should do, They themselves don’t know the law so how can they enforce it?. A few signs on the beaches and roads may stop the beach bonfires and the roadside littering. My how Cayman has gone to the dogs!!!

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