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Turtles get a taste of freedom

Lucky raffle winners got a chance to do their part for the world’s oceans by releasing little turtles into the waters of the North Sound

A crowd of excited moms, dads, boys and girls waited patiently for the 50 turtles to be released into the waters of the North Sound, and from there to the oceans of the world.

The Cayman Turtle Farm’s release programme, known to biologists as ‘headstarting’, has placed many thousands of green sea turtles into the wild since the first official release of 1980.

Turtles have been associated with the Cayman Islands ever since being sighted by Christopher Columbus on 10 May 1503 during his fourth and final voyage, when he called the islands Las Tortugas after the large number of sea turtles observed there.

But the tasty turtle meat, in plenty of demand from sailors whose food stocks were running low, meant that the turtles around the Cayman Islands were fished to the point where today, scentists have counted only 30 adult females regularly laying their eggs on Cayman shores.

That is why the turtle release programme is so important. Since systematic turtle releasing began in 1980, many thousands of turtles have been released to the wild, boosting the local population.

Many of the year-old turtles during the 31st annual turtle were tagged with tiny electronic transponders, which can be detected by scientists around the world who study turtle swimming patterns.

Members of the public got a chance to release the turtles, many of which were just babies, by entering a raffle. There was also a member of the Seattle Pirates who released a turtle into the sea, as the Pirates have been sponsoring the programme.

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