Caribarena reports on the mounting criticism against the world’s last turtle farming operation in the Cayman Islands:
New information revealed as part of an investigation conducted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) into the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) shows disturbing evidence of animal cruelty and conservation failures, amid fresh revelations of massive debts at the government-funded facility.WSPA’s evidence shows that as well as being inherently cruel, the farm’s commercial sea turtle farming operation is also a poor and outdated business model, in terms of profit and both its animal husbandry and conservation practices.
The heavily indebted farm has been making an average loss of well over CI$9 million a year over the past five years, only surviving so far thanks to extensive government subsidies.WSPA Wildlife Campaign Leader Dr. Neil D’Cruze said: “It’s clear from looking at the Cayman Turtle Farm’s books that it has never been an economic asset to the island and is better described as a taxpayer burden. We haven’t seen any farm practices that can justify keeping thousands of endangered animals in cramped and filthy conditions.” WSPA’s video footage and photographs from the farm show thousands of sea turtles being kept in dirty, cramped touch tanks in the public tourist areas of the farm.
These naturally wide ranging animals are solitary creatures, but life in the CTF is a world away from how sea turtles live in the wild. Swimming in water filled with their own waste, the turtles fight for food biting each other and even resorting to cannibalism due to the extreme stress of such close captivity. Four WSPA investigators even witnessed turtles with missing flippers, chewed off by tank-mates.
The worst suffering and health problems faced by the turtles are away from tourist eyes in the restricted access production area, where turtles suffering from disease and birth defects are reared for meat.The foul conditions are not only affecting the resident turtles humans could also be at risk.
As part of its attraction the farm encourages visitors to touch and pick up the sea turtles. WSPA tested and found traces of Salmonella, E. Coli and Vibrio vulnificus* in the turtle touch tank waters meaning that visitors who touch the turtles are at risk of contracting diseases ranging from gastroenteritis to pneumonia and cholera.
The Cayman Turtle Farm has so far failed to respond to WSPA’s suggestions and offers of assistance to address the economic, conservation and welfare issues which it has identified.
Full article. See also: Conservationists call for an end to sea turtle farming in the Cayman Islands on Green Antilles.