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. AJ

    The human race is a parasite. Once we finish reaping all that this planet has to offer we'll just move on to another. Pathetic, just pathetic.

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

      Why don;t you kill yourself and speed up the process?

      July 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • JanetMermaid

      Nature ALWAYS seeks a balance. We have grossly become out of balance. We won't like how nature takes care of this problem.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      Ah youd rather the humans died and let the turtles live.
      Ok, you first.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grey

      The human species evolved with the earth (unless you are a creationist, in which case God put us here as part of his creation). Either way, irrelavent of what we do, the end result becomes part of the natural evolution of the planet. The planet will still be here along with many species... with or without us.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharon

      I hope this means you have no intention of procreating? If that is your true belief, then the human race would be best served if you sterilized yourself and simply adopted an older unwanted child and fostered your beliefs in them in an attempt further your beliefs in future generations, right? Oh and start a blog asap.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Yes AJ! It's a good thing we have an armada of spaceships to do what you're talking about...

      July 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. RS

    The human race is a parasite. Once we finish reaping all that this planet has to offer we'll just move on to another. Pathetic, just pathetic."

    LOL. The people who say this crap truly make me laugh. Keep in mind, nimrod, you're a part of that race you're speaking negatively about. Commit suicide if you no longer want to be a part of it.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill TX

      You're an idiot....he is right, but that doesn't mean he needs to "kill himself"....it's idiots like you who keep an serious discussions from happening on any topic you don't agree with.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. JB!

    "Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings is estimated to make it to adulthood, according to National Geographic." so they really only killed a few. alright, even tho i hate tree huggers this is pretty sad

    July 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teri

      You do have a good point. If they killed 10,000 babies, they really only killed 10 that would have become viable reproducing adults. It's a shame they could not have done this before or after nesting season, though.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • rstlne

      This is more than just sad, it is criminal and downright tragic. You may hate tree huggers now, but when there are no trees left, and precious little oxygen to breathe and you are wearing an oxygen mask constantly, perhaps then you will change your mind. We are destroying this planet at an absolutely astonishingly fast rate, and very few people even care. I am beginning to think that the evolution of human beings was the worst thing that ever happened to this planet.

      July 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      Well said. It's sad what we do to our environment, the earth and all that dwell on it... especially, ourselves. So much hatred for anything good. They love what is bad. We need ro fix that, as well. Who wants to embrace them???


      July 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |

    When humanity is the last animal life left on the planet, a not so distant and undeniable event, what then will mankind look towards to exploit?

    What human traits will be listed as of little value by the powerfull, but to deem those to be of little value and reduced to being listed as lower animals?

    July 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChimChim

      Don't worry HideBehind,we'll always have the Kardashians

      July 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    Way to show the "classy" side of being human... I bet you're a devil with the ladies 😉

    July 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    Look at the bright side! They saved 500! If only 1 in a 1000 survive, these 500 can be raised & released when they have a higher chance of survival & they also saved buildings from crashing into the river! There does need to be more education, so this type of detruction of endangered species doesn't happen again! I agree w/the poster who said if they had known the site was there, they could have saved more eggs! My personal conviction is to never eat endangered animals, no turtle soup or whale steak! So far fruits, legumes & vegetables are not endangered & they're delicious!!

    July 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JmsEW

    Wish people were as concerned about abortion of human children

    July 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • mott4

      So posting here means you only care about turtles and the environment and have no other opinions or feelings about any other issue? Pretty limited thinking ...

      July 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • falcon

      this has nothing to do with it- geez!

      July 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Abby

    Why do commie loonie lefties care more for baby turtles than aborting baby humans??

    July 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mott4

      Wow, generalize much?

      July 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marigold

      The difference, nimrod, is that these turtles have already HATCHED!!! You'd have a better arugument if you read about the storming of a nursery and all the babies that have been born being murdered...I get your point, but these are two different issues...

      July 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tigers

    Yet another example of big business taking precedence over wildlife and wild places...save the homes and especially the hotels (built where they shouldn't have been in the first place likely without any consideration to flood plains or critical wildlife habitat) and the endangered, rare turtles be damned! This is especially true in third world countries and that's what the Caribbean is...third world. Lived there for 5 years. Saw raw sewage going into the seas, saw development in delicate ecosystems.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lemon

    I can't stand nature. I long for the day when efficiency rules and there is no green left on the planet, leaving just concrete, Walmart and McDonald's in its place. This is the capitalists paradise. i will keep watching Fox News and laugh at people trying to improve the planet. This is what i've been programmed to do.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chris browner than you

    Humans are the first species in the billions of years of earths history to actually completely destroy it's own environment.

    Way to go humans.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nikki

    oh those poor things 🙁 I hope those 500 live to adulthood, even though all wont..you can still hope!:-)

    July 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RHolveck


    we arent all monsters.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. john q

    what a waste

    July 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Melissa

    Holy crap, time for some prosecution and prison time.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheBigSarge

      funny thing, these same people that are moaning over the scrambling of a few hundred (out of tens of thousands) of turtle eggs, are the same idiots who think it's a "right" to "scramble a baby" or stick shears in it's skull and suck out the brains.


      July 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lou Ann

      I agree! This is terrible. Someone should have to do some time over this. How is it that the "world's third-most prolific nesting site for the endangered turtles" isn't more protected????

      July 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Les Too

      Agreed. The obvious solution was to move the houses or abandon them. The destruction of these breeding grounds by man over a couple of dollars in the pocket is inexcusable under any scenario. Hopefully, the world will come down on Trinidad in all its fury to make sure that this tragedy never happens again. A home housing 2 or 3 humans is completely irrelevant when compared to the murder of thousands of innocent creatures.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • relative waste?

      Yo Sarge, humans are by no means an endangered species. If you want to use an analogy, use this one: Squashing most of the unhatched and hatchling leatherbacks present on the third largest Leatherback nesting site in the world is as irrelevant as the deaths of a mere 4,000 or so people during the 9/11 attacks. The turtles will breed again next year and so will many of the 7B people on this planet.

      Get it now?

      July 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
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