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Joseph Betty is one of Cayman Turtle Centre’s bus drivers and tour guides, but he is also a very talented artist who has won several prestigious awards, including the Poinciana Arts Festival award for Best Mixed Media sculpture. So when the Centre was looking for someone who would be able to put together not only educational, but also fun sculptures, they had to look no further.
During October, Mr. Betty has been working particularly hard and has produced three wonderful new sculptures. One of them is a giant-sized depiction of a monarch butterfly – but weighing nearly one thousand pounds, and with an 8-foot wingspan, this colourful butterfly is going to find it hard to flutter away! The shape of the wings is just perfect, and the colours too. The Monarch butterfly (called Monica by Mr Betty) is perched on a giant yellow flower, and just underneath its petals there is a giant ladybug to keep her company. Visitors love taking their photos with the pair of them.
Right next door is something completely different: a true-to-life, but much larger, sculpture showing six baby turtles coming out of their nest and rushing down to the sea – which in this case is really CTC’s Saltwater Lagoon. “The idea is to create an illusion of them coming out of the sand and going towards the water like they do in the wild,” Mr. Betty said. “It would be educational and give our guests an idea of what it is like if they have never seen such things as the hatching on the beach and them running to the sea.
The sculpture coincides with the Centre’s Nest Translocation program, which takes eggs hatched within the Centre and carefully moves them to a ‘nest’ – a hole dug in the sand, so that they can hatch out like a natural nest would. And, of course, visitors can always see the hatchlings in the hatchery too. But the problem is that the season when the eggs are laid only lasts from May to October. “Most of our guests come in when the breeding season is over and they would never get to see it in the wild. As a result we at the Cayman Turtle Centre decided to create a depiction as realistically as possible,” he said.
“I research and study just to create a realism and bring it to a certain life, so that when our guests look at it they don’t necessarily see just a piece of artwork they can feel the energy of me as the sculptor trying to put life in these guys,” Mr Betty added. Mr Betty’s most recent work is a lifelike Nurse Shark, which is located just outside the Centre’s Predator Reef, the large pool which houses marine predators such as sharks, barracudas and tarpon. The newest sculptures will join the three sets of work Mr. Betty has already completed for the Centre, including the large turtles in front of the entrance to the park, the giant sized sculptures of more hatchlings outside the Hatchery and Education Centre, and the three large turtle sculptures outside the Breeder Pond.