May to November is turtle nesting season, when sea turtles emerge from the sea at night, lay their eggs in the sand, and return to the water.
Historically, four sea turtle species were found in the Cayman Islands: green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and as shown in the photo, loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtles.
Green turtle nesting populations are believed to have been the largest in the Atlantic (numbering in the many millions), and the other species were also abundant. After discovery, commercial harvesting by visiting ships led to a massive reduction and by the mid-1900s our sea turtle populations were thought to be extinct.
Since 1998, the Cayman Islands Department of Environment has been conducting a systematic survey of the beaches of the Cayman Islands to identify signs of turtle nesting. The first years of monitoring showed that leatherback nesting was indeed locally extinct, and likely lost to us forever, but extremely small numbers of green, loggerhead, and hawksbill turtles persisted.
Since that time, hawksbill nesting has continued to hover at the edge of extinction but loggerhead and particularly green turtle populations have begun to show signs of recovery – increasing from less than 30 nests when Department of Environment monitoring began in 1998 to more than 300 nests in 2012.
For more information on identifiying turtle tracks and reporting nests, click here.