(CNS): Activists from World Animal Protection, the leading animal welfare charity campaigning to transform the Cayman Turtle Centre into a conservation facility, has condemned the recent release of 36 yearling turtles into the sea. The CTC (formerly the Cayman Turtle Farm) resumed its release programme in May when it let ten turtles go after a temporary suspension for three years due to concerns that releasing farmed turtles into the sea could spread disease and put wild turtles at risk. The WAP believes the risks remain and said the controversial release programme presents a danger for wild turtles across the world.
The latest batch of 36 young turtles was released from Barkers on 10 December and the animal charity has stated that the quarantine procedures would not address or counteract the ongoing problems at the farm, where turtles are still suffering from diseases and birth defects.
The head of Wildlife Policy at World Animal Protection, Dr Neil D’Cruze, urged the government to reinstate the ban on releasing the turtles because the threats have not gone away
“World Animal Protection is very concerned to hear that the Centre has chosen to resume its highly controversial turtle release programme,” he said. “These turtles have been intensively farmed in overcrowded conditions proven to be a hotbed for disease that could now be passed on to wild populations. We urge the Cayman government to reinstate the justified ban that was in place since 2012.”
D’Cruze also took aim at the Department of Environment, noting that the release of the farmed turtles appeared to have its support.
“The DoE has a responsibility to protect wild turtle populations,” the activist stated. “If the DoE encourage and support such a controversial and risky release programme, it will set conservation alarm bells ringing throughout the Caribbean.”
The DoE’s main concern, however, is protecting the wild population in Cayman that has been devastated over the years by firstly over-fishing and then poaching. The farm is still considered an effective solution to the potential massive increase in poaching that could occur if it was to stop selling the meat, which, despite the controversies elsewhere in the world, remains the national dish.
An independent survey commissioned by the DoE last year found that even though 70% of people here do not consume the meat, almost half of those that do said they would buy poached meat if the farm closed.
The DoE experts also believe that the farm has had some impact on the increase in the number of adult turtles coming back to nest on beaches around Grand Cayman. Researchers from the department are still carrying out genetic analysis to determine the real impact the farm has had on the wild population in and around Cayman waters.