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- Research & Conservation
Cayman's largest land-based tourist attraction, Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter hosts more than 500,000 visitors each year. Educational, cultural and entertainment programmes are consistently being created and updated to enhance the experience that can only be found at our world-renowned attraction.
The Cayman Turtle Centre, the first commercial venture to domesticate Green Sea Turtles begins. It is founded as Mariculture Ltd by Irvin Naylor, Henry Hamlin, Dr. Samuel Ayres III & Anthony G.A. Fisher with the blessing of and an exclusive franchise from the Cayman Islands Government.
To form the herd, eggs, adults and sub-adult turtles are collected from the wild. A minimum of 477,644 eggs were collected from Ascension Island, Costa Rica, Guyana and Suriname.
Mating & hatching of the Green Sea Turtle in captivity is achieved.
A turtle hatches at the Centre, is reared to sexual maturity and is able to mate and nest with a hatch rate of 33 percent.
The Centre introduces a small group of yearling and hatchling Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles - to establish a captive breeding colony of this endangered species and to obtain further biological data on this species in a controlled environment.
The Turtle Centre reaches another operational milestone when the Cayman Islands Government purchases it from its previous owners and is incorporated as Cayman Turtle Farm Ltd.
The first observed nesting in captivity of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle occurs at the centre.
The Centre registers another significant achievement when second generation turtles first hatch.
The Centre becomes one of the largest tourist attractions on the Island, attracting over 340,000 visitors.
The idea for Boatswain’s Beach is born when Hurricane Michelle causes irreparable damage to the Turtle Centre. Several meetings involving planning teams, construction engineers, members of the public and representatives from both the government and the private sector results in a promise that Cayman will soon be home to one of the most exciting tourist attractions in the Caribbean. At this point, the marine adventure park may have been the only architectural project in the world involving cab drivers.
Design work is completed, and the group seeks planning permission for a world-class marine park created on 23 acres. The project involves massive landscaping, construction of a host of new buildings encompassing 50,000 square feet, a series of sophisticated water-based features and more than a dozen subcontractors.
Construction of the reception building and water features begin. When Hurricane Ivan descends on Cayman, the project suffers only minimal damage.
In May of 2010 the name of the facility was changed, dropping entirely the “Boatswain’s Beach” reference, returning to an earlier, easier and simpler title: Cayman Turtle Farm.
Because it was important for visitors to know about the park’s other attractions, beyond its sea turtles, a subtitle as added as well and the new name was determined: “Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter”.
A new logo was developed for the new name This new logo offers four pictures: That of a turtle is a reference not just historical residents and star performers at the centre, as well as the Island’s cultural past, but the symbol of the turtle is also a reminder of the Centre’s ongoing and world renowned research and conservation activities in addition to the traditional turtle-breeding and release programmes.
The second image is that of a Cayman parrot, the National Bird, drawing attention to both our aviary and also to encounters with some of our other indigenous wildlife.
The picture of a shark directs visitors to the marine life, interactive swimming, feeding and predator tanks, as well as the excitement of seeing underwater wildlife.
And, finally, the fourth image in the logo depicts a small bloom of silver thatch – another National Symbol - referring to the nature trails and promotion of Caymanian traditions and culture.
The new name not only describes the interactive nature of the facility, through the use of the word ‘encounter’ but also reminds residents and visitors of the park’s older, familiar and popular name, which has in effect really always remained in use anyway.
Today the Centre continues to grow adding new features to enhance the entertainment facet of the centre but also work continues to keep the Centre’s research and conservation activities up to par with the global standards.
Pair of White Peafowl introduced to the Peafowl Islands. Soon become a popular sight for visitors.
Turtle Centre begins to see evidence of the success of their ongoing White Crowned Pigeon Release Programme with the number of those colour-banded pigeons flying and breeding on the CTC compound and environs.
A new feature introduced at the Aviary: after years of patience and training, the staff has managed to teach our normally elusive nectar birds (Bananaquits & Honeycreepers) to feed on prepared nectar mix from hand-held cups, delighting our park visitors with the opportunity to encounter these bright and colourful birds close-up.
Ralph and Rosie, a new breeding pair of Cayman Parrots introduced to join the park’s Cayman Parrot Captive Breeding and Release Project. Also, a new Koi pond feature at the Aviary introduced, to make it even more beautiful!
Park introduces a free entry reward incentive offer to encourage and reward school students for good/ high achievements; CTC is selected as the “model of choice” (above all other tourism attractions) for high schools studying for their GCSE O-Level Leisure & Tourism certification.
A study of the Blue Hole cave by visiting scientist Dr. David Bass of University of Central Oklahoma confirmed that the population of a tiny endemic cave shrimp found only in the Blue Hole remains healthy and robust in spite of the long 2013 Dry Season;
The Shoreline Nursery exhibit revived to showcase a coastal mangrove ecosystem, complete with live red mangrove trees, juvenile fish, conch, sea fans and a few juvenile turtles. The exhibit added a new point of interest for visitors to the park as well as providing an easily accessible and practical educational display for local schools studying mangroves as part of the local curriculum.
The park’s Cayman Iguana Exhibit was reopened with a female Sister Islands Iguana on display. The iguana is loan from the Department of Environment after being discovered on Grand Cayman and then brought to CTC to be nursed back to health. This particular Sister Islands Rock Iguana was nicknamed “Ms. Houdini” by Terrestrial staff due to her many escape attempts. A few clever renovations made the enclosure more “escape proof!”
According to surveys by DoE, the Western population of White-crowned pigeons on Grand Cayman is back to healthy pre-Ivan levels. We would like to think that CTC’s six years of releasing captive-bred White-crowned pigeons into the wild has made a significant contribution to this fact.
CTC’s first set of captive-bred Cayman Parrot “twins” were delighting visitors in the Aviary with their mischievous antics, flying over visitors’ heads, crouching low on branches to peer at guests and roughhousing with each other in the trees. Visitors always appreciate seeing a pair of our colourful National Birds in flight
CTC’s captive breeding programme produced the first ever set of Cayman Parrot ‘triplets’ born in captivity. The mischievous birds are a big hit with Aviary visitors, for many of whom the sight of a small flock of colourful Cayman Parrots soaring among the trees of the Aviary is as close as they have ever been to seeing parrots in the wild
CTC began using funds collected from Aviary bird hand feeding donations to sponsor local conservation efforts. The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, DoE’s Grouper Moon Research and Recycling of discarded fishing lines were among the first beneficiaries.
The Cayman Butterfly Garden exhibit was opened in November. This exhibit features an array of native flowering plants, benches for resting, and a beautiful shade pergola and of course native butterflies. About half of Cayman’s native butterfly species, including four of the five local endemic species, have been recorded since the exhibit was opened.
With the addition of three rescue/ rehabilitation Cayman Brac parrots on loan from DoE, CTC has both of our National birds (Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac parrots) on display at the Aviary, making the park the only place in the world where the two endemic sub-species can be seen side-by-side.
In mid-May 2016 the park’s veteran breeding pair of Cayman Parrots, Sweetpea & Leo, hatched the second clutch of Cayman parrot “triplets” ever known to be born in captivity. There is a lack of documented information on the nestling growth and development of our endemic National Bird, so Aviary staff will closely monitor the chicks’ progress via banding, weights and photographs of the various growth stages with a view to creating a document and/ or perhaps a research paper.
CTC upgraded the Nature Trail exhibit with the addition of new information signage identifying native trees along the Trail and their cultural uses. The brightly coloured hand-painted signs were the result of a collaborative community project between CTC, John A. Cumber Primary school in West Bay and Prospect Primary school in Prospect.
CTC had its most successful White-Crowned Pigeon (WCP) release since the programme began in 2008. In 2016, 30 healthy captive bred juvenile WCP were introduced into the wild in two separate releases (August & November). An increase in the number of WCP breeding pairs, coupled with closely monitoring and managing the numbers so as not to overstress the carrying capacity of the Aviary, contributed to a significantly higher number of clutches being laid and subsequent hatchings.
Park visitors were given an opportunity for the first time to participate in the WCP releases. Each enthusiastic participant was chosen by means of a lucky draw and given a short orientation and then given a bird to release. The initiative was so well received that it may well become the new standard for WCP releases.
CTC acquired two new female Scarlet Ibis from Sea World in California, USA in July 2016 to add to the Aviary exhibit. These females should eventually bond with the Aviary’s two male Scarlet Ibis “Ziggy” and “Bobo” and one day produce our first Scarlet Ibis chicks.
Nest Translocation Project continued to attract a huge amount of interest from visitors to Cayman’s tourist beaches. This project involves carefully transporting a clutch of eggs laid within the Turtle Centre, to a popular beach location where they are buried deep in the sand, in order to replicate a natural turtle nest. The baby turtles make their way down to the sea when they hatch out, a process that helps with the mysterious process of implanting the precise geographical coordinates which are used many years later when the mature adults come “home” to lay their eggs after swimming through the world’s oceans. The Nest Translocations add to the ongoing regular releases of turtles – typically one-year olds who are released into the sea from beaches.
Acclaimed Sculptor and winner of the Poinciana Award Joseph Betty – who also happens to be a CTC Tour Guide and bus driver - continued to make the park look exciting with the latest of large, interactive sculptures. His first one set, produced in 2016, and entitled ‘Coming Home’ shows a family of turtles ‘coming home’ to the Cayman Islands. In 2017 his creativity continued with a beautiful sculpture of hatching baby turtles – only giant-sized! His most recent sculpture shows three life size turtles looking for a just the right place to lay their eggs. All three are proving a huge ‘hit’ as popular photo opportunity spots.
The latest addition to the parrot captive breeding programme hatched out in May to parents Sweetpea and Leo The addition of a ‘nest cam’ which is a special kind of CCTV camera showing the nest on a big TV screen inside the office so that CTC crew could monitor the new addition and also gather information on the way that parrots (usually out of sight because they nest in cavities) look after their young. This brings the number of captive bred parrots at the Centre to 14.