11 October, 2018 –
Although Grand Cayman was spared the brunt of Hurricane Michael’s passage this week, several hundred baby turtles were put at risk due to high seas from the storm washing over their nests on the island’s beaches.
On Monday and Tuesday, a Department of Environment [DoE] team led by visiting scientist Evelyn Denton and assisted by local turtle volunteers, checked dozens of known turtle nests which were believed to be in the process of hatching (these are nests that were laid 45-60 days ago).
In total, the teams located 485 live hatchlings Monday that were kept safe until they were ready for release. On Tuesday, a further 61 live hatchlings were recovered in follow-up efforts.
“Some we kept in buckets, a few were even kept in a volunteer’s bathroom sink,” Ms. Denton said. “We released about 150 on Monday night and will release the rest over the next few days.”
Hon Minister Dwayne Seymour, of the Ministry of Environment and Ministerial Councillor for Environment Capt. Eugene Ebanks noted their appreciation for the DoE.
Minister Seymour said: “This is vital work the DoE is doing for the promulgation of the green sea turtle species on and around the Cayman Islands,” while Councillor Ebanks noted his thanks: “We commend this work by the department and its volunteers.”
Turtle eggs buried down in the sand can withstand some waves washing over their nests. However, if the nest is entirely eroded and the eggs wash out to sea, or if the turtles are deprived of oxygen for a long time due to heavy, wet sand collapsing on their egg, most won’t survive.
Once they hatch, baby turtles are more vulnerable to high waves. If the waves keep washing over their nests while they are digging themselves out of the sand – a process that sometimes takes several days – it becomes very difficult for the baby turtles to escape.
Turtle nesting season is typically busiest between May and November. However, nesting turtles can begin as early as April and hatchlings can appear on local beaches as late as January. The DoE advises residents and tourists not to disturb turtle nests nor to attempt to “help” the baby turtles emerge from their nests. The rescue work done Monday was performed by DoE-approved scientists and trained volunteers. If anyone sees a turtle nest in danger of being damaged or washed out, DoE asks that they please call our 24-hour turtle hotline at 938-NEST (6378).