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Nest implantation at Government House

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His Excellency gives nature a helping hand

Nest implantation at Government House
03Jun 2019

Governor carefully handles the eggs
HE Governor Martyn Roper (bottom left) carefully hands one of the turtle eggs to Dr Walter Mustin (bottom right), Cayman Turtle Centre’s Chief Research and Conservation Officer, while his wife Elizabeth (top left) looks on. Tim Adam, The Centre’s CEO, kneeling behind the egg transportation box, prepares to give the eggs to the Governor in the correct orientation for implantation.

His Excellency the Governor Martyn Roper, and his wife Elizabeth, attended and participated in the first Cayman Turtle Centre turtle nest translocation of the 2019 breeding season, right in front of Government House on Seven Mile Beach on Friday, May 10th. 

Nest translocations are part of the Cayman Turtle Centre’s turtle conservation programme. In addition to releasing “head-started” year-old green turtles off beaches, and hatchlings off dive boats into floating off-shore sargassum seaweed, turtle nest translocations are a way of supplementing wild turtle nesting on Cayman’s beaches with fertile eggs moved from the Cayman Turtle Centre’s purpose built hatchery. Normally, the captive-bred eggs collected from the Centre’s artificial beach incubate for about 60 days prior to hatch. For the egg translocation programme, a limited number of eggs are moved to natural beaches roughly 10 days prior to expected hatch. The Centre’s team dig a hole on the new site replicating wild nest depth and elevation. The eggs are carefully transferred in a way that maintains their original orientation, and then covered with moist but not wet sand.

Once they are in their new site, the eggs are watched over by the Centre’s staff until several nights later they start to emerge from the top of the nest and scurry down the sand and into the sea. 

To help them make their way to the sea the Centre constructs a turtle ‘runway’ using easy to see, re-useable black plastic edging. Outside the edging defines the safe viewing area for the general public. Additionally, the nest is protected with round wooden marker poles indicating the ‘no tread’ area. The ‘runway’ also assists the hatchlings from being distracted by lights from beach front properties or cars.

His Excellency assisted with the egg translocation, commenting “It was an amazing experience,” Mr. Roper said. “I enjoyed putting them in there [the nest]; they felt very delicate. They are quite soft, which was a surprise.” 

Mr. Tim Adam, CEO of Cayman Turtle Centre, said “We are very grateful for the close collaboration with His Excellency the Governor and the team at Government House who enabled this to be so successful. The impact this activity has is huge. It not only serves a positive role in conservation by working to increase the number of surviving green turtles in the wild but also by the many opportunities to educate people living here and visitors to the Cayman Islands about the hazards turtles face and what each person can do to help. Protecting turtles also helps to protect all of the ocean’s creatures. People are naturally drawn to the entire course of turtle nest translocations and the eventual emergence of the hatchlings from the sand followed by a fast crawl down to the water.”

Locals and visitors await

Locals and visitors await -
Locals and visitors to the Cayman Islands, eagerly await for the turtle hatchlings to emerge from the nest.

On the night of Monday, May 20th, quite fitting for Discovery Day, a cluster of turtle hatchlings made their way to the sand surface at the top of the nest for a quick dash to the sea. Over 40 people were in attendance for the exciting and memorable encounter with a host of “Ooos” and “Ahhhs” being heard throughout the crowd. For a few nights before that, a hatchling or two had emerged, thrilling those who were there to watch them.

Mass hatchling emergence

Mass hatchling emergence –
A cluster of hatchling turtles having made their way to the surface of the nest gather momentarily before making a swift run to the sea.

“It is truly a group effort to be able to execute this conservation and education initiative, which includes the involvement of our Veterinarians, Chief Research and Conservation Officer, our Education team, as well as Nest Watchers that come on for the season to assist us,” said Mr. Adam. He continued to say that, “Governor and Mrs. Roper checked on the nest each night to observe the happenings, and we were delighted they could be there to see the spectacular mass emergence on Monday night. The strong interest we’ve received from people who walked the beach and happened across the nest, some of whom also vigilantly checked on the nest for many days and nights, or are signed up to our WhatsApp group for instant updates, is a testament to the positive impacts in turtle tourism gained through these initiatives.”

Group picture with the Governor, his wife & the Cayman Turtle Centre's team

Group picture with the Governor, his wife & the Cayman Turtle Centre’s team
Left to right – Leider Viamonte, Kerry Ann Fearon, Jerris Miller, Stran Bodden, JP, Chief Officer Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport, Bendel Ebanks, Christopher Jackson, Robbie Rivers, Tim Adam, CTC’s CEO and Wil Pineau, Director Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre.

In front, left to right – HE Governor Martyn Roper and his wife Elizabeth Roper.

The second nest translocation for 2019 took place Friday, May 17th in front of Caribbean Club, with turtle emergence expected to start some nights after Monday, May 27th. Three more nest implantations on the beaches of Grand Cayman are scheduled for this year’s turtle nesting season. The public can sign up to receive mobile WhatsApp alerts about current nest activity and future nests for the season, by emailing info@turtle.ky with contact details. Beachfront properties interested in hosting a nest on their beach may also email info@turtle.ky.