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Sandals Whitehouse steps up turtle preservation efforts

Hawksbill Turtle Farm established at resort

Friday, June 20, 2014    

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SANDALS Whitehouse, after its release of 478 turtles into the ocean in 2013, has taken a much bigger step towards preservation of the marine reptile by establishing a Hawksbill Turtle Farm on the resort.

Team members, guests and representatives from the Bluefield's Bay Fishermen Friendly Society (BBFFS) were proud participants in the unveiling ceremony recently.

The initiative comes on the heels of massive funding towards the protection of the endangered species by the Sandals Foundation. The philanthropic arm enjoys a partnership with the Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project and the BBFFS in Jamaica, and has so far donated J$2.6 million towards turtle monitoring management, the provision of wardens and the facilitation of training. BBFFS received 2013/2014 funding to the tune of J$737,000 for the society's Turtle Nesting Site Monitoring Programme.

"The Sandals Foundation believes that we must play our part in the conservation of our oceans, and sea turtles play an integral part in healthy oceans," said Heidi Clarke, director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation.

"There are simple ways we can all contribute to rebuilding turtle populations. We believe that building awareness, training our hotel teams and supporting environmentally conscious community groups are the right steps to protect these invaluable species," she added.

During the period of May to December, endangered sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Sandals Whitehouse as well as the Bluefields beaches are active nesting sites that have recorded turtle-nesting action over the years. Members of the BBFFS documented a total of 1,427 hatchlings that were safely released in to the ocean. Since the start of the 2014 nesting season the group has so far recorded and is monitoring five nests along the Bluefields coastline.

According to Wolde Kristos, project manager of The BBFFS and president of the Bluefields Community Development Committee, Sandals Foundation played a major role in the programme's success.

"Without the partnership of the Sandals Foundation, the protection of turtles within this area would be extremely difficult. We wouldn't have the necessary resources for our turtle monitoring activities in the Bluefields area and could not have been able to see such an improvement in the survival of the baby turtles," he said.

He also had high praises for the work the Earth Guardians at Sandals Whitehouse have been doing to protect the nesting sites on the resort's beach.

"Sandals Whitehouse does a wonderful job of patrolling the sites, doing cleanup exercises, adjusting lighting and many other conservation activities to ensure that the conditions are favourable for the turtles to nest on their beach. We welcome the establishment of the Turtle Farm, as this will prove successful in increasing the number of hatchlings that make it back to the ocean for this season and the coming ones," he emphasised.

For Vilma Smith, environment health and safety manager at Sandals Whitehouse, the establishment of the turtle farm represents the resort's effort to reduce the loss of turtle nests for this season due to predators and unfavourable weather conditions.

"We decided to set up the farm as the area to relocate nests that are prone to loss. We have recorded a loss of 13 nests last year. This year we hope to see a significant decrease in the loss of the eggs and we will use the turtle farm as the area where unsafe nests will be relocated, reburied, protected and monitored until the hatchlings make their way into the ocean,"

The conservation of the endangered species represents the Sandals Foundation's and Sandals EarthGuard's commitment to environmental sustainability both at the resort and the community levels.

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