[Updated at 2:59 p.m. ET] Hundreds of endangered leatherback turtle hatchlings and eggs were crushed over the weekend when attempts to stop erosion on a tourist beach in Trinidad went badly wrong, according to conservationists.
Workers were redirecting a river that was endangering a major nesting habitat for leatherback turtles and encroaching on local hotels and businesses in Grande Riviere, a popular tourist spot on the Caribbean island's north coast.
However, the workers severely damaged a nesting area with a bulldozer and an excavator, killing or harming hundreds of unhatched turtle eggs, the local conservation groups said.
A statement from the Environmental Management Authority acknowledged that hundreds of turtles had been killed during attempts to divert the river's course.
"If left on its current course, the existing route of the river would have caused more erosion and loss to previous nesting sites," the EMA said. "The EMA believes that this emergency action will have some positive impact on the overall population of leatherback turtles nestling in Grande Riviere."
A push to add the loggerhead sea turtle is bolstered by several studies that say they could be extinct in the middle of the century. Besides natural predators, boat strikes, fishing and dredging, baby loggerheads have to contend with humans who see them and illegally take them home, thinking they can take care of them. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center in Georgia says it hears about this happening often.
“(People take them) because they’re so cute," said Lauren Broome, a marine biologist at the center. "When they’re hatched, they’re about … 2 inches."
But do cuter animals like the loggerhead have an easier time getting on the endangered list than creepier or more menacing creatures?
Patrick Gallagher, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, says cute or charismatic animals can have an easier time, politically, getting protections from federal officials.
A marine conservation center in Florida has repaired an injured sea turtle's shell with materials used in human orthodontia and released it back into the ocean Wednesday.
Beachgoers in Juno Beach, Florida, discovered a green sea turtle on Father's Day of 2010. "Andre" was floating close to shore with two gaping injuries from boat propellers in his shell. One wound exposed his spinal cord while the other had filled with three pounds of sand and was badly infected, said Melissa Ranly, hospital coordinator at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Ranly said she "got in the turtle ambulance" to bring Andre in to the center.
Despite the severity of his injuries, which also included a collapsed lung, Andre was not acting like an animal that was ready to die, Ranly said.
"Even from the time we got him in the sling and in the ambulance that day, we saw that he had a kind of energy to him that we didn't expect," Ranly said. "We just noted that this turtle was strong. Even though he had these really severe wounds, he just had this life about him and was in it for the long haul."
Andre's unusual tenacity called for some unusual veterinary care, Ranly said. The center borrowed a negative pressure wound vacuum to clean out the newer, sand-filled injury and re-inflate Andre's lung. Once the injuries inside the shell were healed, the veterinary team sought to fix the damage to the shell. They contacted an orthodontist, who used palate expanders to position Andre's shell so that it would heal.
As Andre regained his strength over the past year, he attracted a large following of fans who would monitor his progress in person or via a webcam, Ranly said. Many of Andre's supporters went to see him released into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.
"Because he had so many obstacles to overcome, I think people really embraced the story," Ranly said.
Ranly said injuries like Andre's are relatively common in South Florida, where there is heavy boat traffic. The way to avoid them, she said, is to operate boats at a slow enough speed that turtles surfacing for air will have time to dive out of the boat's way.
A large, soft-shelled turtle linked to Vietnamese mythology has been returned to the wild after three months of treatment, according to media reports.
"Her health condition is good, no more ulcers on the body," said Le Xuan Rao, director of Hanoi's Department of Science and Technology, the Bangkok (Thailand) Post reported. "Everything went smoothly."
The female turtle, one of just four of its kind (Rafetus swinhoei) known to exist, was captured in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem lake in April when its skin lesions and other injuries were noticed, according to VietNamNet Bridge.
The turtle weighs 372 pounds and is probably more than 100 years old, the Bangkok Post reported. The lake has been cleaned up and stocked with fish species the turtle eats, VietNamNet Bridge reported.
It was popularly known as The Great-Grandfather before it was captured and its sex determined, according to thisdishisvegetarian.com.
According to the Bangkok paper, all Vietnamese schoolchildren are taught that the 15th century rebel leader Le Loi used a magical sword to drive out Chinese invaders. One day while boating on Hoan Kiem lake, Le Loi encountered a turtle. The animal took Le Loi's sacred sword and dived to the bottom, keeping the weapon safe for the next time foreigners invaded Vietnam, the story goes.