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)

    Keep up the good work excavators! I love me some turtle soup!

    July 10, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    OH NO!!!!!!

    July 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. Albert

    Humans will not be happy until everything is dead and we have to start eating each other

    July 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Save the homes destroy the planet... should ciut off the nuts of those who were responsible let it serve as a lesson for being really stupid!

      July 10, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • servJBR

      Sorry Albert, you may feel like you can lump us all into one dumb, over-generalized statement, but you may not. Most humans try hard not to waste anything. Are we still cruel, stupid and wasteful sometimes, even often? Sure, that is true. But hyperbole and drama only serve to confuse matters. Avoid confusion. Look at the headline of this sad story, "... thousands", then it says "hundreds". Regardless, it's horrible. Don't forget though, we are naturally occurring according to Darwin et.al. Doesn't make it ever OK to stupidly ruin anything, but most of us do not feel guilty for living here, feeding our children, having nice stuff for our wives etc.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • cody

      You are correct. Easter Island on a worldly scale.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Looks like republicans are all over the place.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • clevercandi

      Soylent Green is people!!!!

      July 10, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. Areacode612

    Trinidad!!! Darn you!

    July 10, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Obama Mama

    I thnk that if the excavators or the wildlife people had at least a heads up on the project maybe they could have saved more. I guess working together is just out of the question. And do these beachfront properties have that National Flood insurance for them to have the taxpayers pay for their homes or private insurance?

    July 10, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • ME

      The excavation took place in Trinidad...Don't think they have the same program for flood insurance down there...Sad story though! If only things like that are considered beforehand.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. salinesolution

    Where's Captain Planet when you need him?

    July 10, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Scott Pilgrim

    Well this is just sad. We need a night-time vigilante to go save these turtles, Daredevil style.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rascal Rabble

    you turtle eggs lovers....

    July 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Obama Mama

    Another question, why not wait till they were gone and back at sea?

    July 10, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joy

    How pathetic! Man is the worst predator on earth.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      Actually, we're kind of the BEST predator. Just sayin'.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. Scott

    I am curious how big of a deal this really is. If only one out of 1000 survive to adult hood, and lets guess about 10000 were killed that is a net loss of 10 adult turtles. Not very much in the grand scheme of things.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Yes, but now those 10 turtles will not be laying all those eggs to replenish the population, and it only gets worst from here. Never understood the need to have a house smack on the beach! And then you want someone to come and rescue you when the sea decides to take over....

      July 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      @Scott -On another site they said 1 in 85 make it.

      July 10, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Killing one human out of billions does not seem very much in the grand scheme of things either. You want to volunteer to die first?

      July 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick Springfield

    Blame the arrogant, conceited, home owners who would kill the entire ocean to have a nice view of the water. They are the ones who say poison the water so the fish don't mess up their view. We need more hurricanes to come along and wash those beach homes right out to Davy Jones locker. We need more torrential rains to cause landslides of those menacing owners. They ruin the ocean view with their slum structures. You can't visit any ocean city in the USA without having ugly arrogant owners blocking the view. So we can only hope we get more hurricanes as the Vostoc Ice Core data shows that Earth is going to have a violent weather future ahead. I say burn baby burn. good riddance to those arrogant beach home owners.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Jealous of their success?

      July 10, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. TIRM

    Not defending the actions of Trinidad here, but most turtles die at the hand of predetors in the ocean, and the article makes is sound like it is mostly humans while in the water.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      whilst on the beach we have the greater chance to ensure as many survive that part as possible to help the species, we failed big time here.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vera

    Give an idiot an excavator, lawnmower, weedwacker actually any destructive tool and expect the worst.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mickey

    Not cool

    July 10, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
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