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The Cayman Turtle Centre’s annual turtle release, which usually takes place as part of the Pirates Week national festival, has been postponed as the Centre is implementing new health screening procedures for turtles to be released.
Following an independent inspection of the Cayman Turtle Centre’s operations in December 2012 by a panel of internationally recognised scientists and sea turtle experts, the Centre committed to developing a more rigorous quarantine and health check procedure prior to releasing turtles into the wild.
The Centre has upgraded quarantine facilities and enhanced the procedure under the direction of Cayman Turtle Centre’s Chief Research Officer Dr. Walter Mustin and in-house veterinarian Dr. Martha Keller, and these enhancements have highlighted a need for some additional health screening tests to be run on the turtles prior to release. Unfortunately, those desired tests are not presently available.
The Cayman Turtle Centre experts are currently in the process of reaching out to universities and research centres overseas to develop and implement the appropriate tests, and this process will take some time. For example, the Centre will need to obtain special CITES permits for all biological samples from sea turtles sent off-island.
“Research at the Cayman Turtle Centre helps biologists and conservationists worldwide better understand and conserve green sea turtles”, said CTF Chief Researcher Dr Walter Mustin. “It is the only place in the world where scientists have repeated access to known populations of Green sea turtles ranging in size from 20 gm hatchlings to 250 kg breeders. This has made possible controlled studies in the nutrition, health, and general biology of sea turtles.”
Over 150 scientific papers have been produced as a result of such research. This has provided invaluable information to scientists and researchers engaged in the care and management of wild sea turtle populations and has greatly expanded the body of knowledge about a wide variety of aspects of sea turtle biology, life cycles, care and husbandry.
CTF Managing Director Tim Adam said, “We realise that many people look forward to our turtle release event and will be disappointed that it’s not going to happen during this year’s Pirate’s Week, but we are determined to ensure our health screening protocols are updated and implemented.”