Trouble and turbulence at the Turtle Farm

| 13/10/2015 | 70 Comments
Cayman News Service

Hundreds of turtles at CTF died in the sun after water leaked out of their tank

(CNS): Recent revelations regarding the cover-up of mass deaths and disease at the Cayman Turtle Farm last year and the efforts of management to try and prevent the media from publishing details of the director losing his temper in a personnel meeting caught on video have raised further questions in the community about the viability of this facility, which continues to be a drain on the public purse. Over the last week or so the Turtle Farm has been a hot topic on Facebook, social media and the press, and not just because of the continuing operating losses and controversies over the future of farmed turtle meat.

The death of more than 1,200 turtles in 2014 was revealed via a freedom of information request — and this is not the first time that the CTF has covered up major turtle deaths. In 2013 over three hundred turtles literally cooked to death in the sun when a tank leaked water and none of the staff noticed. The outbreak of Clostridium, a bacteria that can also cause serious human health problems, killed as many as 20 of the endangered marine creatures each day between April and July last year, with a death toll of around 1,268.

Following the revelations about more mass deaths, the animal rights charity World Animal Protection (Formerly WSPA) once again urged the facility to stop farming and start conserving.

“Green turtles are endangered wild animals totally unsuited for intensive farming,” said Dr Neil D’Cruze, Head of Wildlife Research and Policy at World Animal Protection, who has been leading a global campaign to end the consumption of turtles. “They are solitary, dive to great depths, and swim huge distances. It’s no surprise they become stressed and disease spreads when you cram hundreds of them into a single tank.”

He added that it was sad to hear the farm had lost more green turtles to disease.

Cayman News Service

Tim Adam. MD of the Cayman Turtle Farm

“However, given the Farm’s terrible track record, it’s no surprise to hear the latest revelations of disease, death and an associated cover-up. In recent weeks, the government-owned Farm has again proved it represents a severe threat to green turtles and tourist health. The burning question now is how much disease and dishonesty will it take for them to instigate real change at this farcical­ facility?” the animal rights activist asked.

WAP has repeatedly called for the Farm to transition into a genuine rehabilitation facility to protect the future of this endangered cultural icon and had been in talks with Cayman’s tourism and environment ministers to discuss the possible ban on selling the meat to visitors as a first step in the transition away from farming.

The issue of disease and neglect were not the only things the Farm was trying to cover-up recently as it appears that there are some major personnel problems at the facility as well.

Over the years, a number of departing employees have contacted CNS with concerns not just about the management and treatment of the thousands of turtles at the farm but the staff as well. However, most have wanted to remain anonymous and their stories have been hard to substantiate without documentation. A common thread, however, has been allegations of poor management and staff relationships, with a very high staff turnover, mismanagement of the turtles and cover-ups.

But last week, in a detailed account posted on his Facebook page of a meeting about staff mistreatment, Christopher Willenborg, part of the CTF’s management team, made allegations of manipulation of the appraisal and bonus scheme, threats to staff by senior management, conflicts of interest and even allegations of blackmail.

In response to the allegations and the posting of the video online, which is said to be under investigation by the tourism ministry, Adam chose to attack the media and try to prevent coverage. In a statement responding to questions from CNS, Adam said that publishing the details of the manager’s grievance and the video would be “a new low point for the profession of journalism” and denied that he felt it was a low point for the Turtle Farm management.

Adam claimed the press was being “used by disgruntled employees to surreptitiously and without knowledge or consent of the other parties, record and subsequently create a media circus out of a video or audio recording”.

Dismissing all Willenborg’s allegations, he described the grievance as a “sordid little game” and a “misguided vendetta between an employee of a company and the top management of that company”.

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Category: Jobs, Local News, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (70)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Whats all the fuss about? They are turtles. Have you ever seen a chicken farm? A beef slaughter house? A fish hatchery? A hog sty?

    Disease happens in any farm setting, this is not new.

    Turtle is a traditional dish in Cayman, there is nothing wrong with farming them for food. If you are so against turtle farming you must be a vegan or a hypocrite.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just do not see why money is used to subsidise your appetite for turtle.

    • Cheese Face says:

      Any chicken farm, pig farm, beef farm, turtle farm etc. that lets 300 of its animals cook in the sun needs to be shut down period.

  2. Anonymous says:

    wow people have a lot of mean things to say on something they really know nothing about.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hard to be a glass half full person when it comes to this scale of animal cruelty, neglect, and cover-up – thousands of preventable deaths in our state-sponsored herd. The lifetime value of each of those animals is tens of thousands of dollars. This incident and the operational history of this facility concerns the entire territory.

  3. Anonymous says:

    turtle farm pretty much sums up everything wrong with caymanian society……
    boycott it and close it down…..

  4. Old Daze says:

    In the pizza trade, this kind of foolishness is called “shenanigans”!

  5. Sir Turtle says:

    The big question is did they sell any of the dead animals as meat to restaurants?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how many more “Black eyes” that this Government has to get before they do something. Not a day passes that there is not some gross negligence happening in the course of running this Country. Scandal after scandal in this country, we were known as the “Gem of the Caribbean” at one time and now we are the place where anything goes. We are going to Hell in a basket – What a Shame !!!!!!!

    • Rocktheboat says:

      You are obviously very prejudiced. You are only trying to use this situation as leverage for your political agenda. Was this problem immune in the prior Government, who by the way made a big faux pars in handing management of the farm to someone who is presently in jail? Talk with substance or keep your mouth shut.

    • Anonymous says:

      Best to sell Mac’s expensive white elephant into private hands. No matter at what cost as the annual savings will more than justify a fire sale.
      Govt. has no business in business…we see that time and again when civil servants who are not accountable to anyone take on tasks they are not trained for….building schools being a good example.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I will admit that seeing those poor turtles in the captioned photo is the most disturbing thing that I’ve seen in a long time.

    It should not have happened under the circumstances that it apparently did. The person who was immediately responsible for this tragedy (Cuban – Caymanian) was immediately fired I’m told.

    I recently spoke to an employee at the farm and asked what all the recent fuss was about on Facebook. I was informed that an employee who drives the courtesy shuttle bus, was alleged to have been driving dangerously with tourists and there were several complaints made against the driver. Apparently the driver had been warned several times and then it happened again.

    The driver who is an expat, was about to be discipled or fired and then another expat tried to save his job. As a result of this and then the filming with the cell phone, Tim lost his cool.

    If it’s true about the driver, you can’t blame Tim for taking firm action to prevent a possible serious accident from happening which would result in a hefty law suit from a tourist family.

    The C.I. Turtle Farm is supposed to be loosing about $30,000 CI a month and you can’t blame Tim Adams for trying to prevent further loss to this already bleeding company.

    Tim Adams is not to blame for the C.I. Turtle Farm loosing all the money that it does. Instead, it’s the big politician from West Bay who came up with the grandiose idea to build a new turtle farm for millions and millions of dollars and call it Boatswain Beach.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your information is completely false.

    • Anonymous says:

      If that photo is the most disturbing you have seen in a long time, you clearly have not seen the bodies of dead children washed up on the shores of Greece, nor indeed the faces of thousands of children who go missing every year and so on. Bless!

  8. Turtle Ranger says:



    Instead of blogging and attacking the press for reporting his unique style of management shouldn’t he be in a HR or Anger management course? Tim has zero credibility in the public arena. The entire management team at Turtle Farm including the CEO and the HR Manager Joelle Bush McCray needs to be fired for various scandals cover ups and abuse of staff and turtles alike.

  9. Anonymous says:

    wth is this about Bonuses at an organization that’s is severely bleeding money losses every day. How is this possible? Heavily subsidized by Government and given bonuses out? I really don’t understand this.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I see nothing here that proves Tim Adams as being responsible for someone not doing their job. Do you people know how faraway his office is from where this is happening . You do know that there is more then one person responsible ? There are layers upon layers to keep something like this from happening. Tim Adams is not responsible ,sorry

    • Anonymous says:

      When you are in charge you are responsible for everything. End of story. From premier to head waiter to head of CS….oh, just remembered where I am. Thought I was in the real world just for a second.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Did I just read in this article that the Turtle Farm has a’ bonus scheme’ for staff? Surely that cannot be correct. This operation costs the Cayman tax payer millions of dollars a year just to stay afloat. Nobody, and I mean nobody, working for an organisation that loses tens of thousands of dollars a day should receive a bonus. It is a pathetic tourist attraction, cruel to the animals it supposedly ‘protects’, and results in terrible publicity for the island. An embarassment. And someone’s being paid a bonus? Please tell me that’s a mistake in the report.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Tim Adam should be removed from authority immediately. Clearly he is not capable of running or at least ensuring the care of the turtles is managed properly.

    The neglect of these beautiful creatures should not be handled lightly.

    If this were anywhere else, Tim Adam, you would be facing animal cruelty charges.

    • Anonymous says:

      On a visit to the Turtle Farm last year, I had noticed the empty tank — could have been more than one, not sure now — and I asked a staffer about it. I can’t recall exactly what he said, but it bordered on the rude and ignorant, I remember thinking. Guess the best defence is an offence. Now we know why….

      However, I have to say that I have known Timmy Adam for a long time as a decent, kind man, and I won’t accept that this picture we are getting in these bits of news reports is a complete one.

      My suggestion to Timmy would be to become more transparent with staff and public. I suspect that at the heart of what is happening here are communication failures on a number of different levels/perspectives.

      I recently heard a discussion about the pilot who died while he was flying the plane, requiring the perfectly competent co-pilot to fly solo. The discussion focused on what was told and what should have been told to the passengers. The panel overwhelmingly felt that the passenger should have been told the true situation. No matter how difficult the situation is, it is always best to be entirely open. It is all about how you do that communication. We CAN trust people to deal with the harsh realities if we show respect for the truth and for them.

      The simple fact is that, particularly in our small environment, murder will out.

      • Anonymous says:

        And therein your comment is Caymans biggest problem, cronyism. Facts laid bare but ” no, I won’t believe them”. Buck stops at the top, no excuses.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Close this facility. It is bleeding all over the place.

  14. Caymanian says:

    Good thing there’s thousands of them ey

  15. Sharkey says:

    I think that this is time to change management, when management don’t have respect for the turtles that he suppose to manage too, then I don’t think that the meat that was going out to the public for human consumption had been managed . This kind of disrespectful disgraceful behavior of one hidden these kind of things, should be greatly punished.

    • Must see says:

      Tim has had a good run. He is now “old”, like Sparky. He is shakey and often times goes off on a tangent which often time leaves his management staff stupified. The management that remains around him brown nose and suck up to him like hyenas to get in his good graces.

      The bonus scheme is a farce. Ones bonus is dependent on how well they sick up to Tim Adams. The day those books are properly audited the accountant and his assistant probably end up before PAC. If the turtle deaths were a cover up just check the books.

      Maybe the park and the farm should be separated.

      What happened to animal husbandry.

      Dr. M

  16. Anonymous says:

    Theres trouble at mill lad….seriously? And heavily advertised as “The place” to go in Cayman…tourists reading this stuff will vote with their feet…and whilst I think it does serve a purpose in preventing illegal hunting and releasing turtles back into the wild, it has to be in humane conditions..not this pile of typical Cayman poo…

  17. Sam says:

    What do you expect from a subsidised facility? Zero responsibility.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Diseased turtles, negligence leading to further turtle deaths, high staff turn-over in management, berating and mistreatment of employees, employees required to resign under duress and falsehood. All of this points to failures and ineptness by the man at the top. So will he be required to “resign”? Bet not!! This fits right in with the culture prevalent across the public service. Disgusting!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Another taboo CTF topic that never seems to be adequately explained: what precisely is the procedure with the turtle shells of killed/harvested animals? Is there any CTF audit or supervised destruction (as there would be with ivory or drugs) to prevent the illegal sale and transshipment of shell scutes and/or Edo Bekko materials (per CITES Appendix I, since 1975)? It is well documented that the Caribbean is the lead export market of sea turtle shell to Japan to provision its traditional Edo Bekko arts in circumvention of the global ban on this trade. How much of our “state-sponsored” shell production is being routed secretly via Cuba/Honduras, and which poachers with CTF facility access are part of this international racket and privately collecting money? This flavor of international trafficking does not seem to be on RCIPS radar. It ought to be, since we’ve never once read in the paper about a supervised destruction of turtle shell, nor did anyone hear about the mass mortalities at the farm of our government assets. At >$1000/lb, the criminal temptation has to be real. There must be scutes that quietly go missing and sent on their way – privately benefiting those with this special access.

    • Anonymous says:

      The same dope/money laundering cartels that handle products of endangered species are often the middlemen. It’s also done on a smaller scale right over the internet with live auctions. It’s quite possible that Cayman turtle shell has been seized by foreign customs, but, as usual, even if the RCIPS knew about it, it would be kept quiet. Assuming CTF has DNA samples of it’s turtles, it could be compared with seized or suspicious specimens.

  20. caymanaindonkey says:

    So if a local poaches 1 turtle for food, he goes to jail.
    I turtle farm kills 1000’s nothing happens.

    Oh and don’t forget the man at the top messed up our national airline when he was the head as well.

    Just move them from one dept to another, don’t worry we will forget about it.

    “Not today BoBo”!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Recently went to one of their coming home events and have never seen such a fiasco. Joel decided to stand on a stool and change the fluorescent lightbulbs as people were eating. The dust and grime that flew about was crazy. It was in our food and drinks. Tim was hovering behind him like a proud Daddy, We left our food and drinks and cut the evening short. Never again!

    • Michel Lem says:

      And possibly selling unsafe meat for consumption. Time to get CTF In shape and make it work.It’s costing us too much money.Change high management rrsl soon to motivate staff. Season right around the corner and seriously consider the options available to fral with this white elephant. Not good and who election time soon come. It needs to be high priority for everyone sake. HR must go and possibly investigated. I would rehire Christopher back. He sound as if he cares more, and acknowledges and fight for them if there in the right. That’s a leader ! Better then what we now have and excuses, excuses. No sir.

      • D. Tibbetts says:

        Face reality! It’s time to close this disgusting drain on the people’s money! No one will die if they don’t get their turtle stew.

    • Anonymous says:

      Joel, you mean Joelle.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Turn it into a conservation facility or close it down. Keeping it open as it is would be continuing to rob the Cayman public and serve no economical or environmental purpose.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree it should be a conservation facility as before. Now that I think about it, was the Boatswain Bay Park a UDP project with M Bush and McLaren (Jamaican) the builder/contractor? I am not with either party but it really seems that UDP is tied up somewhere with these failed projects and PPM with over extending for capital expenditure??

  23. Anonymous says:

    Why has the Farm not commented on the human impacts? The Clostridium outbreak puts people at risk too – not exactly good business! Now all those cruise boats will have to stop bringing visitors.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians aren’t about to stop eating turtle if the farm is closed. Close the farm and the wild population is doomed. Fact.

  25. Hickateaser says:

    This report is nothing short of insubordination!

    PS: Build the damn dock!!

  26. Anonymous says:

    A national disgrace.

  27. Cheese Face says:

    “In 2013 over three hundred turtles literally cooked to death”

    That alone should be enough to close down this hell hole.

    • Southsounder says:

      Why was the Turtle Farm not prosecuted for animal cruelty…if you let your dog cook to death in the sun, you would be facing charges, so where is the difference?
      This alone constitutes gross negligence and the persons responsible should have been sacked for incompetence but hey, this is Government, where the law of the normal world is not applied.
      This facility should be shut down and the turtles released, it is nothing better than a concentration camp, run by barbarous, primitive, animal abusers….shame on Cayman for allowing this disgusting torture of innocent animals to continue.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s highly unlikely you’d be charged for any kind of pet abuse; the torture of wild green iguanas is a local pastime. Nothing will be done about the turtle farm as it’s an untouchable “sacred cow”. There is no empathy or care for God’s creatures.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would but for the support of the vocal barbarians.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Management of turtles is a little different from telephones.
    Time for change at the top.
    Save the turtles for lunch and dinner.

    • Anonymous says:

      Micro-management style is finally coming home to lay turtle eggs.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with that how much more do you have to fail to be allowed to continue at the top.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would get frustrated and blow off too if I had to switch at that age having been used to mainly dealing with competent personnel in a high tech business to what now are essentially farm workers and all that goes with that. In recent times he even brought over one of his retired loyalists who is known not to be too bright and a known b&ll¥ to drive a forklift.

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