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. BigdaddyUSA

    It's probably Israel's fault.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. dpari

    Here we, human go again...killing and destroying.....what a shame.

    July 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. MattC

    We shall avenge thee!!!! AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!

    July 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ali

    I sincerely hope someone is held accountable for this. It is not okay that major companies/governments continue to wreak havoc on our environment and no one seems to care.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      It was done in Trinidad, if you think anyone will be punished, then you are fooling yourself.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Johnny

    Black people tend to always be a little bit dumber than normal

    July 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Turtle post

      Never say "always" and that's the only time you can say "never".

      July 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • AK

      Moron!

      July 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. André Kruger

    People and homes are not a threatened species. Turtles should get preferential treatment.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hypatia

    Another horray for idiot humans and their destruction! Must save jury-rigged hotels with smelly Chinese drywall but who cares if they wipe out a species.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wnzmtc

    This is sad.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HIDE BEHIND

    So what's news here is old news there, for the. ery wealthy sre wrll looked after by Trinidads Minister of Works. who not only takes bribes for permits to resotts is and has been for years under one form or another financial scandal, the latest hsving to do with Disapesrance of $500k from ministry.
    Hopefully this mess will bring his and a majority of the lands corrupt government down.
    For the people there a pride in those turtles is large, they got po'd at how tourist were taking rides and hotogrspjing it and rose up demanding laws prohibiting with huge fines for penalty.
    Land is aplace for huge money laundering by both US and foreign investors adsociated with resort building and management, including a few past presidents and political hacks.
    Where money is concetned it is IN GOD ER TRUST and damned if any animal, plant or himan matters.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      I could take your post more seriously if it wasn't cluttered with spelling and grammatical errors. Go back and get your GED.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jon

    Poor turtles :/

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

    Baby turtle soup – YUM!

    July 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      The dogs and birds got them.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jakedog

    Luanch the missles

    July 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KS Native

    I guess when you have an 80-year-old 'in charge' of the Republic a lot doesn't get his attention. Obviously someone who doesn't care about the environment is 'in charge' . Shame on these people for wiping out an entire breeding season of these important turtles!

    July 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ScottCA

    When they realised that there were turtle hatchlings why didn't they stop and wait for the turtles to complete their jouney to the water before proceeding with the excavation work.

    Isn't this what environmental studies prior to Contruction work are mean to avoid. If this was caused by negligence then someone should be held responsible.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sarge

    Probably stoned workers.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
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