299 turtles killed after systems failure at Farm
(CNS): A break in a main pipe that carries sea water to the Cayman Turtle Farm last month resulted in the death of 299 of the Farm's young animals. The turtles were killed because of a backup systems failure in one of the large commercial farm tanks. The loss is the first incident of its kind in the Farm’s 40-plus years in existence, officials said, but it had led to an improvement in the crisis response and resiliency systems. As a result, during last week’s blackout when seaside pumps were out of operation for the entire morning, the farm got through the outage without any loss of turtles. Nevertheless, the facility's staff are all said to be extremely upset about the death of so many animals.
“We lost some 299 turtles, which were all between the ages of three and five years old," the Farm said in a statement about the incident. “This loss has been very upsetting to the management and crew members involved in responding to the incident. Although a significant number, this represents less than 5% of the total number of turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm and the turtles lost were not part of the Cayman Turtle Farm’s breeder stock.”
The problems began for the farm around 11am on Monday, 16 July, when the main seawater pipe sprang a leak and began flooding the road it runs under. In order to repair the crack the decision was made to cease pumping sea water into the farm through the main pipe system.
“Several hundred thousand gallons of fresh sea water are required to be pumped into the farm on a continuous basis to maintain daily operations and ensure the safety and optimal living conditions of the sea turtles housed at the Cayman Turtle Farm, and this water flow ceased during the diagnosis and repair of the pipe break,” officials explained.
Repairs began but finding a major break required heavy equipment, external contractors, additional manpower, layers of fiberglass work followed by concrete work. It took many hours to complete and the pipe was not back in action until 10pm that night.
“While repairs were being made, alternative water pumping systems were obtained and put into place in efforts to maintain adequate water levels and some water circulation in the turtle tanks,” the Farm said but as a result of problems with the back-up system the turtles housed in one of the tanks had died.
“Immediately after repairs were completed and water pumping operations returned to normal, the management team at the Cayman Turtle Farm met to review the incident and put improved mitigating procedures and systems into place based on the lessons learned,” officials added.
The Farm is now implementing new procedures and emergency back-up water supply systems to avoid the loss of any turtle in future. The core water pumping and piping system is being monitored and some key valves that failed are being replaced.
“The responsible stewardship of the animals in our care is a responsibility that we take very seriously and our crew works hard and diligently every day to ensure that safe and optimal operating conditions are maintained. We remain saddened by this recent loss – the first of its kind in the Cayman Turtle Farm’s 40-plus years in existence but we are energized about improving our crisis response and resiliency systems moving forward,” the Farm stated.
Despite the sad loss, a spokesperson for the Farm added that the facility was seeing a good number of hatchlings survive this nesting season, which is good news as the Farm has been struggling with its breeding programme for several years.
“There is new life in the midst of the sadness,” the spokesperson said.
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