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Some very fortunate children enjoyed the trill of releasing some of the turtles into the sea during October. The turtles, all hatched from eggs laid inside the Centre, were all between one year and one-and-a-half years old, and so benefitted from being big enough to be able to escape from almost all the predators they may face in the sea. Called the Head Start program, it gives the turtles a ‘head start’ in life – a big boost to their chances of survival in comparison to the very low survival rate of tiny wild hatchlings.
The releases took place on two consecutive days. On Thursday 12 October, the release of six turtles was particularly special because all the school students were all winners of the Turtle Centre’s schools’ competition which involved designing a parrot poster for junior schools, or writing an essay on Cayman’s indigenous parrots – which have been taken care of in the Centre as part of the Centre’s ongoing captive breeding program. Originally the winners were going to release a parrot into the wild as a prize, but an unforeseen delay of several months meant that it would be unfair to let the children wait any longer, and so the children were asked whether they would like to release a turtle each instead. The children all agreed, and so all the winning students, who came from Cayman Prep, St Ignatius and Grace Christian Academy released the six turtles into the North Sound. Moms and dads and teachers were there too, and after CTC’s Jerris Miller gave a short talk about the turtles, and how the Centre’s conservation plans have been shown to be working by significantly increasing the turtle population in the seas around the Cayman Islands. “They were all happy. We got some emails back from the parents and students on how they had such a wonderful experience and they were all talking about it,” said CTC’s Curator of Terrestrial Exhibits and Education Programs, Geddes Hislop, who had organized the competition.
The next day, CTC’s Jerris Miller took some turtles to the district of North Side where children from the Edna Moyle Primary School helped to release some more turtles. Mr. Miller is also the President of the Cayman Islands Catboat Club, and so was able to tell the students all about how the Cayman Islands used to be, and how important turtles were.
“It’s the biggest attendance we’ve had at any release event. We had 200 kids all very interested, and all with good questions and they all enjoyed the speech that we gave beforehand, explaining what we do,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity when you get a chance to do a turtle release and educate the children about them.”