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. Paula

    This is so horrible. I was dining at Mt. Plaisir hotel one night when it was invaded by the hatchlings. It was one of the most beautiful sights. We got to pick them up and take them back to the water. What a tragedy.

    July 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Wise gal

    The political party in power, People's Partnership, should come forward and apologize for what has happened. These turtles are protected by law and international law. I do hope international agencies or organizations halt funding of environmental projects in this country, until the government launches a thorough investigation and held those that are responsible for this crime.

    July 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Yes, I will stay for you, Bobcata(iah),JIF,Chrissy,Nicole and others.
    I just don't understand why they do that.
    I posted a harmless little turtle joke(in moderation pending). I come back later and they erased it. But they let some of them get away with slander, trolling and everything in between.

    July 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      My right winged friend- do not be discouraged as the other day I also was in moderation Hell. You have your opinions and hopefully this moderation bump in the road will pass. Although it felt like a gall stone to me the other day.
      With heartfelt care and concern,( cnn is a pain in the a$$.) Scottish Mama

      July 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Hey, Jeff, OM:
      When it's in moderation, the rest of us don't see it; only the person posting can.
      My posts that have been "moderated" usually do not see the light of day...
      Ah well.
      Such is life here on these blogs.
      I'm glad you're staying, Jeff.

      July 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cnnscanner

    It is a sad that they could not wait until the turtles were all hatched. Also many US news media can't tell the difference between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamacia. Just do on search on leatherback killed in Jamacia. This is an international shame on US news media

    July 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Barbara

    Outrageous! The leatherback sea turtle is listed as Critically Endangered, there are laws in place to protect this animal from these sort of things happening. How these laws have been over looked for the sake of a river diversion scheme, I would like to know.

    July 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • saturn badger

      Maybe they were trying to help them?

      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.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bacon


      July 11, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Genold

      The river diversion thing had nothing to do with protecting some nest. It was only initiated to make more money for the resorts and tourist area nearby. Let's not fool ourselves. It was money that was at the heart of this, not some zoological altruism.

      July 12, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jennifer

    It was done on purpose.... The resorts in that area have been trying to kill them for years so they can expand...

    July 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Teenage Girl Turtle Hater

    OMG! This is too FUNNY! LOL!

    July 10, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. turtles

    It is horrible what was done to these turtles, better planning could have been done. This is Trinidad though where planning is often non existent. I am sure all the alternatives were too expensive, not every country can have large amount of money for environmental conservation. With a murder rate of almost 3 a day and a lot of government corruption, this island needs help. But that is mentioned nowhere in international news, but when turtles die that is mention, so humans in this country are second class citizens to turtles.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Darnell

    so you were trying to SAVE THE TURTLES ? yup a bulldozer is just the tool to use to save them turtles, not to mention the brainless wonder you have operating it.

    July 11, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ruppert Jenkins

    Oh no. A couple hundred out of the world's 200 million turtles were killed. How will I ever sleep tonight?

    July 11, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rick

    They should have left the river alone to do what nature intended. The turtles would have simply gone somewhere else to lay their eggs. Nature fixes it's self better when we don't interfere.

    July 11, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Leonardo

    I guess they wont be joining us for pizza tonight.

    Turtlke power!

    July 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Facepalm

    I am from Trinidad and Tobago, and this government is to be the very ones to blame. They only think about the money they can gain from a project, and see about themselves. Everything that happens in this country with this government is "swept under the mat,' and kept out of sight till everything blows over and everyone forgets the issue. But this is unforgettable and international news, so no Kamla Persad Bisessar (spelling unacknowledged) this will not blow over easily. This is disgraceful,disgusting, and horrifyingly careless, and I can't imagine why the minister of works will allow such a thing to be allowed. Everyone in the present government and contractors are to blame for this.

    Yet, you people jump up and get a fuss over animals when people die like flies in this country every day. Murder rate of three people a day, with also deaths that go unnoticed and unrecognized, this is a minor problem. This country needs help and a lot of prayers.

    July 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yes....

      People die in every country every day...people are being killed left and right in our inner cities. Pople have to start somewhere. I this case, it's with turtles. I guess we will not visit your country. Will that help?

      July 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brendan

      TOTALLY Agree the T&T Government should give an account and THIS ACT IS OUTRAGIOUS

      July 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Genold

      We have plenty of humans who are spreading like a disease across this planet. Biodiversity is more important then some pathetic village of overly promiscuous aboriginals.

      July 12, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brendan

    This calls for international concerns

    July 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Facepalm

    That is your'e choice but you are missing the point,in this case it seems turtles are more important than human life.Yes it's tragic, it's sad, it's a stupid act, we all established that. Now get pass that and look at the point, news media over HUMAN DEATHS, and pay attention moreover to deaths of animals? Are you kidding me?

    It has a war going on were thousands of people are dying, children die(according to the world hunger association) every SIX SECONDS! Compare a CHILDREN and HUMAN LIFE to turtles.

    So if you choose not to come to my country that's your'e prerogative. I'm not going to miss you.

    July 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JRW

      They are in this case. No human life was endangered – just a tourist beach & money.

      July 12, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      What, exactly, makes a human life so much more important?

      Nothing more than pure ego.

      July 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz

      The longer I live and the more horror I see what humans do to each other, especially parents killing/abusing/abondoning their own children – – the more I think animals are a higher form of life. There isn't room here to write the whole decline of human civilization but read history and stay tuned to current events. It's all there in front of you.

      July 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
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