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Beyond the turtles: CTCEC’s other conservation work

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Beyond the turtles: CTCEC’s other conservation work
28Apr 2022

The Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre’s conservation work with sea turtles began in 1968, but since then we’ve also added other species into the mix. Our logo captures only a few of our other efforts: the Cayman parrot, a shark, and a small bloom of silver thatch.

Here are a few notable animals we care for:

Smiley’s Croc Cove houses an 11-foot, 300-pound American saltwater crocodile named Smiley, who arrived in 2006 as Grand Cayman’s first crocodile visitor since the late-1950s. In her habitat, Smiley has the option between freshwater or saltwater, depending on how she feels.

The Predator Reef is the home to our large nurse sharks and other marine species, such as tarpon and barracuda.

Our Shoreline Nursery came from a study of the Blue Hole Cave. The nursery showcases a coastal mangrove ecosystem, complete with live red mangrove trees, juvenile fish, conch, and sea fans. The exhibit is a favorite of local schools.

Caribbean Free Flight Aviary shows that not all our animal friends live in water. You can meet local and exotic Caribbean birds, including the Cayman parrot and scarlet ibis. Our Peafowl have their own two islands in the middle of the saltwater lagoon, joined by white peacocks and "traditional” blue peacocks.

Butterfly Garden, next to the aviary, showcases 18 different butterfly species. To ensure we attract our butterfly friends, we have handpicked plants for their garden to see who will stop by.

Blue Hole Nature Trail is named after the mysterious blue cave which is the habitat of the only known species of an amphipod – a tiny aquatic side swimming crustacean – in the world. Along the trail are mahogany trees that were used to make everything from cribs to coffins, earning their name "Cradle to the Grave.” Silver thatch trees, the Cayman national tree, can be identified by the silvery underside of their leaves. The trail also pays homage to beautiful orchids like the banana orchid (Cayman’s national flower) and the monk orchid, which is the Cayman’s only ground-living orchid. More animal friends on the trail include white-crowned pigeons, Yucatan vireo, bananaquit birds, Cayman blue anole lizard, and the agouti, a large, gentle rodent that hops like a rabbit.

Our White-crowned pigeon (WCP) release, like our sea turtle head-starting, takes juvenile WCP and introduces them to the wild. An increase in the number of WCP breeding pairs, contributed to a significantly higher number of clutches being laid and subsequent hatchings.  We also have a Cayman Parrot breeding and release project.

To learn more about the Centre’s conservation efforts beyond the sea turtles, click here.