The Cayman Turtle Farm has been named as one of the world’s cruelest wildlife tourist attractions in a recent study by researchers at the University of Oxford.
A press release from World Animal Protection (WAP) said, “The study is the first to conduct an in-depth review of the impacts of the wildlife tourism industry globally. The researchers identified 48 types of wildlife tourist attraction (representing thousands of individual institutions), ranging from poorly attended street performances (like snake charming), to larger attractions (such as elephant rides), which have tens of thousands of visitors every year.”
The researchers then audited 24 types of wildlife tourist attractions in detail.
“The Turtle Farm was specifically included in this audit, where it received the lowest possible negative score (minus 3 of a 7 point scale) with regards to its impact on animal welfare,” the WAP press release said.
The Farm has been repeatedly criticised by WAP and other sea turtle protection groups with regard to what they say are “animal welfare problems inherent within the tourist attraction, which is also a commercial meat production facility.”
Factors they cite include “stress, disease and death associated with handling and cramped captive conditions,” according to the WAP release.
The study research team examined feedback for wildlife tourist attractions on TripAdvisor and found that attractions with poor welfare received more negative feedback than ones with better welfare. However even for the wildlife tourist attractions that scored lowest on welfare, like the Turtle Farm, typically 80 per cent of the feedback left by tourists on TripAdvisor was positive.
Representatives from WAP said, “People trust TripAdvisor, so when they see that the Farm has a ‘4 star’ rating, it encourages more tourists to go and visit it. Unfortunately, these tourists are unaware that the TripAdvisor ratings that they are turning to for advice, do not actually incorporate the animal welfare impact of a facility.”
The WAP release continued, “World Animal Protection is very concerned that tourists, often no doubt lured in because of their love of turtles, are supporting the Farm without realising that in actual fact, the facility’s conditions for turtles are extremely cruel.”
“The study’s researchers are calling for TripAdvisor to improve its service to the visiting public by including in its evaluations a score for animal welfare and conservation, in a similar manner to its ‘Green Leaders’ scheme. This scheme enables tourists to identify sustainable attractions (as reviewed by an independent panel of representatives from environmental groups),” the WAP release said.
WAP has mounted a campaign against the Cayman Turtle Farm since 2012, calling for the facility to shut down its commercial farming operations.
“World Animal Protection has repeatedly called for the Cayman Turtle Farm to transition into a genuine rehabilitation facility that truly protects the turtles in its care. The Farm is also operating at a consistently significant financial loss, subsidised by taxpayers for around $10 million annually,” the WAP release said.
The Cayman Reporter contacted the Cayman Turtle Farm for comment, but had not received a reply by press time.