July 10th, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Hundreds of turtle hatchlings crushed by excavators

[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 rescue attempt did manage to save some of the turtle hatchlings, but local conservationists say they're demanding a meeting with government officials to prevent the situation from happening again.

"It is important to investigate how this was allowed to happen and to find a solution so this won't reoccur in future," said Marc de Verteuil of Papa Bois Conservation, which works in Trinidad and Tobago.

De Verteuil said the beach had been suffering from erosion for weeks. He said the shoreline and river edge should have been stabilized, rather than the "very intrusive major earthworks" that ended up taking place.

The beach is a major nesting ground for leatherback turtles, listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Thousands of turtles return to the area where they were born to dig burrows in the sand and lay their eggs during nesting season, according to local conservation groups.

The area attracts thousands of tourists at the height of turtle nesting season each year to watch the baby turtles try to make it from their nests to the sea.

Laying as many as 100 eggs at a time, leatherback turtles - the only sea turtles with soft shells - face many survival threats, mostly from humans. The eggs are harvested, or once in the water, the hatchlings may fall victim to fishing and boat strikes. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings is estimated to make it to adulthood, according to National Geographic.

Some studies have predicted the leatherback turtle could be extinct on the west coast of America within 10 to 15 years, said Peter Richardson of the Marine Conservation Society. However, populations in the Atlantic region seem to be doing better, with Trinidad reporting rising numbers in recent years, according to Richardson.

In West Africa, a team of international scientists has estimated that as many as 40,000 female turtles are nesting on beaches in Gabon, making it the world's largest known leatherback turtle population.

soundoff (278 Responses)
  1. Ruppert Jenkins

    It's not really a big deal. I was staying at a resort in the Bahamas 3 weeks ago. My wife and I found 9 baby turtles on the beach. We took them back to hour hut, opened them up, and fried them with our morning eggs. Yum yum, tasty fried turtle!

    July 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • fat and lazy

      Have you tried canned whale meat, or baby seal ribs?

      July 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • NutGrinder

      lol Troll

      July 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • LARRY

      Maybe you & your wife & kids would tast better!

      July 15, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. save the animals

    lets kill all the animals and save the human race who needs animals on earth anyway, all we need is tourist with nothing left to see,carry on and we'll all soon be dead, then maybe the animals will live in piece

    July 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • fat and lazy

      that's the problem; these turtles are in "piece"s!

      July 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CnnReporter

    American news media can't tell the differance between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

    July 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WisdomVS

    Accidents happen. Those people were simply trying to preserve another area when this one was damaged. Tragic, yet a reality that can't be UN-done. I'm sure caution will be taken in the future. They should follow the example of North Carolina, which has very strict laws regarding Leatherback Turtles as well as programs to protect them and see as many as possible into the semi-safe water. We even have laws to protect the Manatee, as well as rare plants like the venus fly trap. It is not impossible to grow and develop while protecting the environment. Our state has proven it time and time again, from the mountains to the sea. Since the release of the HUNGER GAMES movie our mountains have been flooded with tourist. So far they have been respectful of the environment. Littering and damaging wildlife habitat are not taken lightly in our state. So, if you come to North Carolina please enjoy yourself but mind your manners and your behavior. We don't want you to be arrested or eaten by a wild bear.... or beaten up by a redneck wildlife conservartionist. 😉

    July 13, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. fat and lazy

    if only 1 in 1000 makes it to adulthood, and the dozer crushed "100's" (less than 1000), what exactly is the treat to the species?

    July 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NutGrinder

    As I read into the article, i was glad to hear that this was an accident that occurred in an attempt to further preserve these creatures habitat.

    July 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. selisa

    thats sad. maybe next time they should CHECK it out first. common sense people.

    July 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grayland Gal

    Obscene, absolutely obscene. Wow, does this planet need one big ol' pandemic to thin the human herd.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • bill

      Lead the way

      July 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Your currency is dead in September or October sucks to be U

      You're a fan of eugenics? Disturbing much...

      July 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LARRY

    THERE'S NO DISCRACE LIKE THE HUMAN RACE. Ya I'm sure it was a mistake,BULL!!!!!!!

    July 15, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • larry 2

      Larry, it's "disgrace". How about you go first and remove yourself from the race?

      July 16, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sue

    very sad, unfortunetly it happens...but sad that it had to. I am happy someone stepped in to save them. It is sad to see how many wonderful creatures are becoming extinict and how many horrible humans are coming out of the woodwork.

    July 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • turtle soup is delicious

      Sue, they're not extinct. The report says only about 1 in 1000 will even live to adulthood, so really, this wasn't a huge deal as far as survival of the species is concerned. It had a much greater effect on empty headed people than it did on the turtles.

      July 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bill

    Get a grip.....they're turtles. If there are thousands of them in multiple parts of the world, they don't face extinction. Only in liberal-world is this considered endangered. If you're that worried, and only 1 in a 1000 makes it into the ocean, then take the other 999 and put them safely in the ocean where they won't "bump" into a boat. When these things hatch and move to the sea, seabirds and other meat eating animals have a feast. It's not man.

    July 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. luckylei


    July 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
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