©World Animal Protection
It is truly sad, but unfortunately not surprising, to hear the latest revelations of animal cruelty at The Cayman Turtle Farm. As reported by the Cayman media this week, in 2014, the Farm lost a total of 1,268 endangered Green Turtles due to a 'mystery illness' over a period of just 4 months, with an average of ten turtles dying each and every day.
This 'mystery illness' was caused by Clostridium, a bacteria that makes toxins that are dangerous for humans, leading to botulism, tetanus and even death if they are eaten. Only now, more than 12 months later, is this information publicly available, following a Freedom of Information request by a journalist at the Cayman Compass.
Green turtles are endangered wild animals that are totally unsuited for intensive farming conditions. They are solitary, with a specialized seagrass diet, dive to great depths and swim huge distances in the open ocean. It's no surprise at all that they become stressed with the spread of diseases like Clostridium becoming inevitable when you cram hundreds of them into a relatively tiny single tank. In fact, outbreaks such as this have been recorded at the Farm since the 1970's when it was referred to as 'floppy flipper' disease.
It is very clear that both the animal cruelty and human health threat of this latest outbreak were deliberately kept secret from Caymanian residents and tourists alike. What is not yet clear, is the extent, if at all, the Cayman Islands Government or even the UK Government were aware of these serious concerns. However, we do know that the Farm was very much aware, which is exactly why this news was hidden for so long, and why the Farm's management fought so hard to keep this information out of the public eye.
Unfortunately, losing more than 1000 endangered sea turtles and a potential zoonotic disease outbreak has not been enough to stir the Cayman Islands Government into action. However, in stark contrast, the Ministry of Tourism has now rapidly responded to a viral video of the Farm Director Tim Adam berating a member of his staff. The latest revelations regarding the Farm are not only truly astounding but also serve to demonstrate that the Cayman Island Government can intervene if it has a mind to.
Over the past three years, World Animal Protection has been in direct contact with both the Cayman Islands Government and the UK Government, urging them to finally work together to ensure that this government owned facility transitions into a true turtle sanctuary. Unfortunately, these calls have been repeatedly sidestepped and ignored.
Now the Farm has yet again proved that it represents a severe threat to the health of both its turtles and tourists alike. The burning question now is how much disease and dishonesty will it take for them to instigate real change at this farcical facility?