NEW YORK – In the lead up to World Turtle Day later this month (May 23), World Animal Protection has launched a petition urging Carnival Cruise Lines to put the welfare of endangered sea turtles ahead of profit and stop sending unwitting tourists to this cruel attraction in the Cayman Islands.
Tourists visiting the center via Carnival Cruise Lines for the opportunity to take a ‘turtle selfie’ are usually unaware of the abuse and suffering the turtles experience when they are being handled, an activity featured in World Animal Protection’s top ten cruelest wildlife attractions.
In 2012, the organization exposed behind-the-scenes evidence of more than 5,000 endangered sea turtles in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, fed on an unnatural diet, resulting in abnormal behaviors such as aggression and even cannibalism. The center’s conditions are a far cry from the natural environment in which sea turtles normally live.
The center also breeds turtles to provide turtle meat for people and restaurants. The facility claims that turtle meat has high local demand; however, a recent report funded by the UK government shows that only 1% of Caymanians eat turtle meat on a regular basis, calling into question the strength of the ongoing demand.
Despite numerous attempts by World Animal Protection to work with the company, Carnival Cruise Lines is turning a blind eye to the appalling conditions these sea turtles experience by continuing to send endless streams of visitors to the center.
Neil D’Cruze, Senior Wildlife Advisor at World Animal Protection, says: “The stress and injuries associated with the repeated handling of these wild sea turtles by tourists is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind the scenes, hundreds of sea turtles are crammed into overcrowded shallow tanks out of sight from the tourist view.”
“It’s really disappointing that Carnival Cruise Lines has failed to provide World Animal Protection with any meaningful action to help protect these sea turtles, which is why we’re urging the public to sign a petition asking Carnival to stop fueling this unnecessary cruelty.”
“Ultimately we want to see the farm operate as a genuine rehabilitation and education center, where endangered turtles are properly protected. These wild animals should not be handled by tourists or served up on a tourist plate as a novelty burger.”
World Animal Protection is also concerned about possible health risks to turtles and people. In 2015, local media reports revealed that 1,268 turtles at the center died due to Clostridium, the bacteria that can cause botulism, tetanus and other potentially serious health problems for people.