A social media video showing a sea turtle nest being dug up has prompted a warning from the Department of Environment.
The video showed someone digging up the nest on Seven Mile Beach and encouraging hatchlings to crawl along the sand towards the sea in broad daylight.
The DoE, in a statement Monday, said this was the third such turtle nest disturbance incident this month.
It is an offence under the National Conservation Law to disturb sea turtles or their nests.
The department said, based on its officers’ observations, those in the video seem to have “no ill intent” and believe they are “rescuing” the baby turtles.
“However, nature is not always so amenable to such good intentions,” the DoE stated.
It said under no circumstances does it encourage releasing baby turtles in daylight, “because it gives them virtually no chance of survival”.
“Releasing hatchlings in the daylight hours makes them much more visible, and therefore vulnerable, to predators on land, air and sea,” said Janice Blumenthal, DoE marine research officer.
Hatchings need to make it on their own
Blumenthal further explained that by digging up turtle nests before the eggs naturally hatch, baby turtles can be removed before they are ready to go to the ocean.
“It takes several days for their bodies to straighten and strengthen after coming out of their eggs and they may be released at times when they are less likely to survive,” she said.
In the natural sequence of events, the DoE said, hatchlings that reach the surface of the sand during the day will typically wait for the sand to cool, signalling the safety of the nighttime hours.
“Sometimes in daylight a few hatchlings are visible at the surface of the sand, but it is safer for those hatchlings and the 80 to 100 little turtles below them to wait until nightfall to emerge and continue their journey to the sea,” the DoE added.
MLAs say ‘Do not disturb turtle nests’
Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour said while he wants to continue to encourage members of the public to support sea turtle conservation, it should be done in the right way.
“We don’t want anyone to inadvertently put these animals at further risk,” he said.
It is a point shared by Councillor for the Environment MLA Eugene Ebanks.
Plainly, Ebanks said, leave the nests alone.
“I know that locals and visitors alike all feel a great affinity for our wild turtles. They are a national treasure, part of our important heritage, and a tourist attraction in their own right, for many years,” he said. “But these turtles have been nesting in Cayman successfully from before people were here, and the best thing we can do for them is leave any nest, or nesting turtle, undisturbed.”
Any member of the public concerned about a nest can call the DoE turtle hotline at 938-NEST (938?6378). Anyone seen interfering with a sea turtle nest, nesting turtle or turtle hatchlings should be reported by calling DoE Conservation Officers at 916?4271 or by calling 911.