Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cayman Islands: In Love With Sea Turtles



Breeding Lagoon
The Getaway Girl and her family took a cruise to the Caribbean this spring, landing in Cayman Islands one day. Since I love being one with nature and wild critters, the highlight of the trip was on Cayman Islands where we visited the CaymanTurtle Farm and the famous Stingray City sandbar for some uno-y-uno with the giant stingrays. (See Stringray City posting).

Nesting Beach
I am glad to say the Cayman Turtle Farm is not an accurate name. Thinking it would be a big pond full of turtles in someone's backyard (hey, it's the islands, mon), I was surprised to find the "turtle farm" is actually a large, 23-acre modern marine park and research center  dedicated to sea turtle breeding -- along with a marine  education center, an aviary, a nature trail ... and the largest swimming pool on the island. It's owned and managed by the Cayman Island government, which obviously helps with funding and establishing this facility as a world-renowned sea turtle research center.

Upon entering the park, I was astounded by a massive lagoon filled with hundreds of sea turtles! Across from the viewing area is a long, sandy beach for the females to lay their eggs. Our guide said this "breeding pond"  holds several hundred female green sea turtles and about 100 males. The staff monitors the beach each morning to see if there are any new nests. If so, they remove the eggs, they are incubated, and within a few months new baby sea turtles are born.

Cute little guy!
Each year, thousands of hatchlings are tagged and released back into the warm waters of the Caribbean. This tagging method is tremendously significant as it is the only method whereby a tiny sea turtle hatchling may be identified as a 300 pound adult more than 15 years later on a nesting beach. This tagging may allow scientists to discover whether or not sea turtles actually return to the beach from which they hatch to nest.

In addition to the green sea turtles, the farm has a large collection of holding tanks where they have rescued and care for loggerhead and even rare kemp's ridley turtles. There's even a "touch tank" where visitors can hold young sea turtles ... guaranteed to give  a  warm, fuzzy feeling.

For more information, on the Cayman Turtle Farm, go to www.turtle.ky