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Documents Reveal Knowledge of Sea Turtle Cruelty

Jan 28, 2013

Report shows knowledge of overcrowding, disease publicly denied by Cayman Turtle Farm for more than six months

In an Independent Veterinary Assessment document recently made available to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) from July 2012, the popular island and cruise line attraction Cayman Turtle Farm, or CTF, has had knowledge of animal health and endangerment problems on their property for more than six months, despite denials to the contrary as recently as late December 2012. It wasn't until January 25, 2013 that the CTF publicly released a scientific report, which reaffirms the majority of WSPA findings.

The CTF document, conducted internally by the farm, reveals concerns nearly identical to those brought up by WSPA in their own assessment. The evidence in the CTF document from July 2012 acknowledges welfare, health and care issues, stating, "[A] significant proportion (possibly even a majority) of turtles exhibited skin lesions," and confirming that the self-proclaimed conservation facility does not have any veterinary oversight for the turtles at the farm and has observed evidence of cannibalism. Despite this, the CTF publicly claimed in December that WSPA's claims were "ungrounded," "unfounded, erroneous and sensationalised."

The document confirms the findings and evidence on which WSPA has been pushing the farm to change. As early as May 2012, WSPA staff approached the farm in partnership with their own assessment – which clearly matched the assessment the CTF would later undertake internally in July.

ays WSPA wildlife and campaign expert Dr. Neil D'Cruze, "The CTF's own evidence from July matches our own. This new evidence is a major breakthrough as it proves that the Farm knew WSPA's investigation findings were true all along."

In December 2012, the CTF completed a second independent veterinary assessment of their facility, which publicly acknowledges many of WSPA's original concerns – many of which the CTF has been denying since July. Adds Dr. D'Cruze of the December report's findings, "The observations revealed that a significant number of turtles have injuries consistent with severe overcrowding and that disease is a ‘serious problem.' We hope that the CTF will now work with us, as both sides of the debate have observed and now accept these issues as being real, present and far from groundless. Our goal is to work together to develop a pragmatic, forward thinking solution for the farm."

In the spirit of forward-looking cooperation, WSPA staff will be meeting with the CTF in late January 2013 with the intent of moving forward to help the facility transition to a true conservation and protection mandate. WSPA plans to continue its efforts to work with the CTF while educating consumers and tourists on the facts about the popular endangered species attraction.

For more information on WSPA's efforts, visit or

For media inquiries and copies of the CTF and WSPA assessments of the Cayman Turtle Farm, please contact:

U.S.-based media:
Deborah Burzynski
Regional Communications & Marketing Director, North America
(800) 833-9771

All other regions:
Neena Dhaun
Media Manager
WSPA International
44 20 7239 0699

Key report findings include:

"A significant proportion (possibly even a majority) of turtles exhibited skin lesions…these varied markedly among tanks and among individuals with regard to incidence, extent and severity." "A significant proportion (possibly even a majority) of turtles exhibited skin lesions, generally to dorsal cervical area or axillary area. These varied markedly among tanks and among individuals with regard to incidence, extent and severity." The report also noted "A few individuals (less than 10) were observed with lesions of the head and eyes."

Titled, "Annex 2: Counterarguments to misconceptions/misrepresentations within the WSPA Review," the confidential document reveals that the CTF was aware of cannibalism amongst the turtles in their care and recommend they "add vet oversight to animal care and trt. Remove and segregate injured animals (additional tanks required.) increase feeding frequency. Sort size more frequently/" This was in direct response to the first CTF report from July, which found that turtles with obvious flipper damage was "consistent with alleged cannibalism (sic)" – a key finding of the WSPA report.

Finally, it suggests a media strategy for dealing with the evidence raised by WSPA about stress in handled turtles, recommending "Captivity stress – refute with "evidence" based on something that can be measured." This in itself suggests that their "evidence" – left in quotation marks in the report – is somewhat lacking in validity.

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