International pressure mounts against tourist hotspot after global animal welfare charity reveals shocking evidence of sea turtle cruelty

An investigation conducted by global animal welfare leader the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) at popular tourist destination, the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF), has revealed disturbing evidence of animal cruelty, human health risks as well as extensive conservation and financial failures.

Currently housing 7,000 endangered sea turtles in appalling inadequate conditions, the government owned Cayman Turtle Farm is the last remaining facility to intensively farm and breed sea turtles for human consumption in the world.

However, WSPA’s undercover investigation has shown the Farm subjects its inhabitants to a lifetime of abuse and neglect – something we have gathered scientific evidence of.

WSPA’s undercover video footage and photographs show thousands of sea turtles being kept in dirty packed enclosures, making them vulnerable to disease. The sea turtles are also left to swim in their own waste, and fight for food which has resulted in cannibalism. WSPA investigators even witnessed turtles with missing flippers, chewed off by tank-mates.

WSPA Wildlife Campaign Leader Dr. Neil D’Cruze said:

“It’s truly horrific to see this type of neglect and cruelty taking place at a tourist attraction. Life on the Cayman Turtle Farm is a world away from how sea turtles live in the wild.”

“These naturally long ranging, wild animals are solitary creatures that can’t endure the cramped and filthy conditions at the farm. There’s simply no humane way to commercially farm sea turtles for food.”

As well as uncovering shocking cruelty, WSPA’s evidence shows that the heavily indebted government owned facility is failing on its conservation remit and is simultaneously posing a potential threat to human health.

Over 200,000 visitors, mostly unsuspecting foreign tourists, pass through the Cayman Turtle Farm’s doors each year, and are encouraged to pick up, touch and swim with the endangered sea turtles.

WSPA’s investigation uncovered traces of Salmonella, E. Coli and Vibrio vulnificus in the turtle touch tank waters – meaning that visitors who handle the turtles are at risk of contracting these diseases and then possibly spreading them to fellow passengers back on board their cruise ships.

 

According to a 2012 poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 69% of North American cruise ship passengers polled who visited the Cayman Turtle Farm in 2009, were unaware of these health risks.
As well as being inherently cruel and a threat to human health, the commercial sea turtle farming is also uneconomical. The Cayman Turtle Farm is making an average loss of well over nine million Cayman Dollars (approximately $10,976,000 US Dollars) a year over the past five years.

WSPA presented its findings to the Cayman Turtle Farm’s owners, proposing a plan for the farm to transition its business to a sea turtle rehabilitation and research centre, but to date help has been declined.The world's oldest sea turtle research and conservation group, the Sea Turtle Conservancy said:

“Our longstanding knowledge of conditions at the Cayman Island Turtle Farm, combined with recent evidence provided by The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), raises significant concerns and uncertainty surrounding the welfare of the turtles and the farms efforts to conserve wild populations.

Without any proof that the farm’s turtle release program actually benefits wild turtle populations, the farm is sending out a dangerously misleading message. We strongly urge them to work with WSPA to resolve these concerns”.

Additionally, demand for turtle meat on the island has plummeted by half in the last five years and it’s consumption as a delicacy for tourists almost non-existent.
WSPA is now publicly calling on the Cayman Turtle Farm to permanently end sea turtle farming and encouraging members of the public to take action at www.stopseaturtlefarm.org

“The Cayman Turtle Farm has definitely strayed too far away from its original goal of protecting green turtles,” said British/Caymanian world champion free diver, Tanya Streeter.

“It makes me sad to see how much the turtles panic when they are picked up. The only time they react like this in the wild is when they are under attack or being poached by humans.”

-ENDS-
For our undercover videos, photos and interviewees please contact
Neena Dhaun, WSPA International Media Manager on 0207 2390699
NeenaDhaun@wspa-international.org
Notes to Editors

WSPA’s Stop Sea Turtle Campaign:www.stopseaturtlefarm.org

  • Water Testing

Salmonella: one of the most common foodborne diseases, millions of cases are reported each year, with thousands of reported deaths. Diseases caused can range from gastroenteritis to typhoid fever. Most at risk are the very young and the elderly.
E. Coli: while found in the gut of people and animals, E. Coli bacteria is also a common cause of food poisoning and gastroenteritis. Severity of illness depends on the strain of bacteria, but young children, the elderly and people with a vulnerable immune system are most at risk.
Vibrio vulnificus: immunosuppressed people are considered most at risk, but it can affect anyone and is potentially fatal. Most disease-causing strains cause gastroenteritis, some result in cholera and it can also infect open wounds and cause septicaemia.

 

  • Tourism Poll

Source: Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Cayman Turtle Farm visitor poll, August 2012.

Participants were asked “Prior to your visit to the Cayman Turtle Farm, were you made aware of any potential health risks (e.g. Salmonella, E. Coli etc.) associated with touching the turtles and/or their tanks?”

    • More info about the poll:
  • Aim – to determine if cruise line tourists who had visited the CTF were aware of the animal welfare concerns and health risks associated with the farm.
  • Conducted – August 22nd - 31st, 2012
  • Sample size / demographic – 400 cruise line tourists who have visited the Cayman Turtle Farm in the last 3 years

 

About WSPA (www.wspa.org.uk)

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is one of the world’s leading animal welfare organizations. We have been protecting animals around the world more than 30 years. We passionately believe that animal welfare matters. At WSPA, we will always expose and oppose the exploitation and suffering of animals. We believe animal cruelty must end, whether an animal is living in the wild, on a farm, in our community or affected by a disaster. Today, WSPA works in more than 50 countries, collaborating with local communities, NGOs and governments that can help us change animals’ lives for the better. We also act at a global level, using our United Nations consultative status to give animals a voice.

  Scientific report available on request

 Details about water testing available on request- see Notes to Editors

Poll information- Please see Notes to Editors

Source: Freedom of Information request, submitted by Rt Hon Greg Knight MP, received 20/08/12


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