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Cayman Turtle Centre Celebrates New Debt-Free Status

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Cayman Turtle Centre Celebrates New Debt-Free Status
01Mar 2019

Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter is pleased to announce that it is now free of all its long-term debt, having now fully paid down the final balance on what originally was the equivalent of just over 50 million CI dollars that was borrowed between 2004 and 2009 primarily to build the facility.

In 2001 after Hurricane Michelle destroyed most of the facilities of the seaside location it was decided the Cayman Turtle Farm, as it was called at the time, should be extensively rebuilt across Northwest Point Road on the far less vulnerable land side. The loan financed the creation of the new facility to turn the operation into a state-of-the-art world-class tourist attraction and an enhanced scientific and conservation organisation. As a result, the Turtle Centre is now the premier land-based attraction in the Cayman Islands, and producing for the country a very significant positive economic impact from over a quarter million tourists a year who visit the Centre. In addition, the Centre has collaborated in over 150 published scientific studies and projects and made numerous advances in marine sea turtle conservation through its extensive programmes.

Since that time, the government has supported the facility by making regular equity injection payments every quarter to repay the debt as well as help with operating costs. Loans extended by local banks First Caribbean International Bank Cayman Islands and Cayman National Bank have already been paid off, back in 2017 and 2016 respectively, with the large initial bond of 44.6 million US dollars being finally paid off on 1 March this year. 

“It’s a monumental day in an organisation’s history when it not only has paid off one major financial debt instrument but multiple loans, and when that organisation can call themselves debt free where all long term debt has been fulfilled,” Ministry of Tourism Chief Officer, Stran Bodden said. “Being debt free puts an organisation in a much stronger position to be able to negotiate with stakeholders, develop new partnerships and establish new opportunities to grow.

“Government understands the benefit of the Cayman Turtle Centre and has supported it financially wherever possible, because it sees Cayman Turtle Centre as being both innovative and creative to increase revenue streams. We applaud the continued determination of the Centre to serve the Cayman Islands both as a top-notch tourist attraction as well as the leader in the area of sea turtle conservation, education and scientific study.” Mr. Bodden continued, “We have seen many improvements in operational costs through the continued drive to move forward and find new ways to advance. Turtle Centre is driven to uncover new options, and looking at new ways of diversification.”

The new debt-free status of Cayman Turtle Centre means that in future, the Government’s financial injections will not only be significantly reduced, but will also be used solely for making the day-to-day running of the facility more competitive, as it pursues its goals of reaching out to more visitors than ever before. Year by year the attraction provides additional benefits via enticing tourists onto the island and providing them with memorable and unique experiences, generating economic activity supporting not just the 100-plus Caymanians who are employed there, but through all the revenue consistently being generated from related tourist businesses: the second pillar of the country’s economy. That involves a large number of tour operators, tour boats, taxis, restaurants and stores that benefit so much, and to a significant extent depend on the visitor traffic generated by Cayman’s premier land-based attraction.

Cayman Turtle Centre’s Chief Executive Officer, Timothy Adam, said, “This is indeed a significant milestone. It has been achieved by the ongoing support of the Cayman Islands Government through all these years, especially the Ministry of Tourism. They understood the importance of sustaining our mission both in attracting large numbers of tourists as well as in marine turtle conservation, scientific study, and education. This success is also a testament to the wise guidance of our Board of Directors, our management team and our staff who year after year have dedicated their time and energy in fulfilling our mission.”

“Being finally free of that debt means that, in effect, that support from this point on can be directly focused on our mission. We can continue improving the island wildlife encounter experience as Cayman’s number one land-based attraction for our 300,000 guests annually including residents, visitors to Cayman, schools and other groups and in so doing, keep the Cayman Turtle Centre shining as a real jewel in the Cayman Islands’ Crown,” Mr. Adam continued.

“We are grateful to the Cayman Islands Government, and by extension, the people of the Cayman Islands, who have never stopped believing in, and supporting us. With the news of our debt-free status, as well as the report from the genetic study conducted by the University of Barcelona, the University of Exeter and the Department of Environment which has shown beyond any shadow of doubt the efficacy of our conservation measures, is our way of repaying all the faith and trust they have put in us over the years,” Mr. Adam said.

Brian Wight, Chairman of the Board for Cayman Turtle Centre, went on to say, “It is often quoted that the more you know about something, the more you want to protect it. From now on Cayman Turtle Centre will be freer to focus on providing an even better experience to more people, from the thousands of visitors who come every week, to schools and universities, including those involved in ground breaking scientific investigation. We want people to enjoy the fun and adventure when visiting while learning more about how to conserve these majestic creatures that have swum through the worlds’ oceans since before the time of the dinosaurs.” 

News of the final debt payment follows the positive results from a report, which shows by clear scientific evidence that nine out of every ten green turtles that are coming home to breed in our waters and nest on Cayman’s beaches are related to turtles released from the Turtle Centre. This report is based on a genetic study conducted by scientists from the University of Barcelona and University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and Cayman Turtle Centre. It also points to comparison data from the 1980’s when the release program was starting to gather momentum to now, that the number of nests on Cayman’s beaches has gone from zero to nearly 200 per year. Last year, in celebration of the Centre’s 50th Anniversary, more than 1,300 turtles were released, continuing the Centre’s success story.

For more information, call the Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter on 345-949-3894, email us at info@turtle.ky, visit us online at www.turtle.ky or find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CaymanTurtleCentre/.