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Local residents as well as visitors came to see members of the public releasing 15 turtles from Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter into the sea at Barkers National Park in West Bay on Wednesday 21 February. The turtles were each given names by the participants, as Turtle Centre crew members helped them by taking the turtles out of the big water filled tubs they arrived in. Some of the participants included clients from Sunrise Adult Training Centre, along with several different children and other young people who each helped bring the turtles to the water’s edge.
Suzzette Stewart, Vocational Training Coordinator at Sunrise Adult Training Centre said: “I just heard about the release on the radio when I was driving into work and the Sunrise Adult Training Centre is located very close to Barkers. We are always looking for new opportunities and new experiences for the clients, so I thought it would be really good for them to see and participate in the release, because they have probably never seen the turtles being released before. The turtle Centre is one of the places we visit every year and I thought it would be nice to see the turtles released into the wild.” Chalice, one of the clients, said “I loved letting the turtle go. I named the turtle Angel.”
Cassandra Martinez McDow’s two children, Elena and Ian McDow, were two of the lucky participants who let the turtles go into the sea. “My kids love the Turtle Centre and my husband is a marine biologist so he’s pretty active in teaching the kids about science and wildlife. We saw the post on Facebook and we just live down the street so we decided to come out and watch the turtles being released.
The 15 released turtles will join the other 31,000 turtles which have been released into the ocean by the turtle Centre since it began. The Centre has helped turned the tide on the declining numbers of turtles that have so worried conservationists and marine biologists for more than half a century, and a recent independent study has shown nearly a tenfold increase in the numbers of nesting turtles in Cayman Waters between 1999 and 2015.
Another important study, part of the Darwin Plus Initiative, showed that more than 54 percent of the turtles found around Cayman’s waters have DNA attributable to turtles which have been released from the Centre. So the good news is that the Centre’s conservation programme is really working – many of the released turtles are coming “home.”
Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) helped publicize the release by informing their members, as Tiffany Dixon Ebanks, Executive Director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association explained, “CITA was excited to share the great news about the Cayman Turtle Centre’s first Turtle Release of 2018. It was certainly a magical occasion and we received great feedback from all. We are already looking forward to the next one and will keep our members, visitors and the Cayman Islands community posted on future releases.”