Goods news! A new genetic study of the wild population of green sea turtles in the Cayman Islands shows that is has recovered, it presents a high genetic diversity and shows no difficulties regarding breeding. The population of reproductive female adults in the Cayman Islands is now estimated to be between 100 and 150.
The decline of green sea turtle nesting populations worldwide led this species to be listed as Endangered in 1975 by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), and in the 1980s, several studies concluded that the green sea turtle nesting population of the Cayman Islands was extinct; although, the presence of some green sea turtles was reported in the waters surrounding the Island.
To recover this endangered population, a program of reintroduction of the species was launched, with individuals of the Cayman Turtle Farm. Later renamed the Cayman Turtle Centre, it is a conservation facility and tourist attraction located in the West Bay district of the Cayman Islands.
Forty years later, data shows that the nesting population of the Cayman Islands has been restored, but researchers did not know if this was the result of the reintroduction process or the natural recovery of the population for the improvement of threatening factors.
An analysis of genetic markers in the population of the wild green sea turtle show a close genetic relationship with the ones in the Cayman Turtle Centre. Sightings of tagged nesting turtles have also confirmed that some of these nests were laid by turtles released from Cayman Turtle Centre.
Centre under scrutiny
The captive breeding programme at the Cayman Turtle Centre has attracted criticism from conservation groups who claim that the centre runs the risk of introducing infectious diseases into the wild by releasing turtles that have been bred in captive conditions. It has also been claimed that programmes of this kind fail to address the root causes of turtle decline and efforts would be better spent tackling illegal poaching. However, a panel of international turtle experts that inspected the Centre in December 2012 concluded that the Centre had a "positive conservation impact."