Turtles on track for record local nesting season
(CNS): This year is proving to be one of the highest years on record for turtle nests, experts from the Department of Environment have revealed. So far, DoE staff and trained volunteers have found and marked over 200 turtle nests in Grand Cayman. Since 1998, the DoE has conducted systematic surveys along the beaches to identify signs of nesting by sea turtles. The data collected is used to assess the quantity, frequency and distribution of nesting and to aid conservation efforts. Together the DoE staff and volunteers cover some 800 miles of beach by the end of the May-November turtle nesting season.
Janice Blumenthal, a research officer with the department, said that the number of nests found so far puts 2012 on track to be one of the highest years on record.
“Our monitoring method has not changed since the programme began in 1998, so we are confident this represents a true increase,” she said. “Due to the increase, many Caymanians and residents have been able to see nesting turtles for the first time and many visitors have told us that they will plan their next vacation to the Cayman Islands during the nesting season or in order to see nests hatch.
“We would like to thank hotel and condo managers, beach front property owners, and CUC for turning off lights on the beach to protect these nests. Together, we have already protected over 5,500 hatchlings, and the work of protecting the years’ hatchlings is just beginning,” she added.
While this is an encouraging increase in nesting numbers, turtles still face numerous threats, including poaching and light pollution. Contributions from a campaign run by a beer company will be used to address the lighting problem.
“We are excited about using some of the funds from Miller Lite to implement turtle ‘friendly lighting’ solutions in key areas,” Blumenthal added. “The DoE is committed to finding lighting solutions that work for turtles and people, and there is great potential to improve nesting habitat in this way.”
She explained that, with a limited budget at the DOE, companies such as Miller Lite can help with the project to protect turtle nesting populations.
“We are very grateful for all of the fundraising that Miller Lite has done this year to raise money for essential equipment for turtle conservation,” she added after receiving a cheque for $4,500 from the beer company, which was raised through fundraising events including island-wide beach clean-ups and donations from Miller Lite purchases.
So far the money has already been used to purchase supplies such as PVC pipe for marking nests and shades for lights. These items form part of a long-term plan to improve the nesting habitat for turtles in the Cayman Islands.
The public is encouraged to call the DoE Turtle Hotline 938-NEST (938-6378) if they see turtle nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings or email DoE@gov.ky for more information.
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