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. Oodoodanoo

    Trinidad helped preserve the turtles because it was a tourist industry.

    If they really just care about money, then it's entirely consistent that they'd kill turtles to save property.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • $$$

      That's exactly what they just did. They killed a lot of turtles to save the property threatened by erosion. It is about money.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. islestar

    Unconscionable! Boycott Trinidad – Seriously

    July 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cameo35

    .............. hey! I want turtle soup.....and make it ' snappy !'

    July 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SlackMeyer

    Just put them in a deep fryer... A little Old Bay...

    July 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    Agent Smith: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheBigSarge

      really Mr. Dirt? quoting a line from a movie is the best you can do?

      at least you took the second best line from the series. the first being "I know Kung Fu," by Neo.


      July 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • large sarge

      Sarge, your intellect is exactly what I expect from an enlisted drone. Do as you're told.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hope

    Soon, there won't be any islands.

    Think about it,

    July 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    @Grey. There is absolutely nothing natural about man having a capacity to LOVE far beyond that of any other animal, and then greedily polluting this earth to make himself fat.
    Rest in peace, Rachell Corrie. (crushed by evacuators of people in Israel, even a Caterpillar brand evacuator donated by you, the taxpayer, to Israel to help evacuate people as if dirt.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TheBigSarge

    "scramble" a turtle and it's called planetwide genocide by the very same people who say that scrambling human eggs or scrambling late term human babies is a "right".

    sorry, my choice is to keep the people and eat the animals.


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

      Why do you assume that people who support the tutles are pro-abortion? Can't you want to save the turtles and be anti-abortion at the same time? It seems you are making a conclusion without facts to back it up and making a rather stupid assumption at that.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • large sarge

      LargeSarge believes that "life starts at conception" unless it's thousands of unhatched and hatched baby turtles. Pro-life indeed!

      July 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |

    It is "illegal under Homeland Security and Patriot Acts" to promote boycotts of any nations goods or services without official permission.
    Those powers are vested only witin Federal.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      Please Boycott Walmart and Kock Bros products. Just like that? That is illegal? I don't think it is. What about freedom of speech?

      July 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • authorsnote

      It is perfectly legal to boycott ant nation's goods and trade items. The Patriot Act and the NDAA, though the most rights-threatening legislation our country has seen in a century, do not prohibit boycotts.

      July 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M. Schmidt

    Let's see, that make it "Man" – 80 trillion vs "All Other Life Forms" – Zero, and why do we do it, because # 1 we only care about money, and 2 because we can.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Simone E. G.

    How stupid and nasty can people be? Haven't we (humans) destroyed enough? Some preparation and planning is needed before going in a turtle hatching place. How can this be avoided? What guarantees do we have this will not happen again?

    July 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dolfan650

    So if 1000's of eggs translate to one adult, in effect we've lost one or two adult turtles.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. dolfan650

    If only 1 out of a 1000 grows to adulthood, in effect we've lost one or two adults.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      @dolfan- I read it was 1 in 85 reached adulthood and approx. 20,000 so 236 if not more. 239 producing 85 eggs per turtle per year, that is 19,315 less eggs per year and the numbers go on and on.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mr Dalloway

    This is so absurd it's beyond any rational.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ThisIsMeCaring

    This is how many ****s I give: 0.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      In total honesty: I can more about the turtles than I do if a bunch of people got squished by bulldozers. Us humans have screwed up this planet, we can't even get along with one another without violence, war, etc. Screw people, save the animals!!!

      July 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThisIsYouTrolling

      So...congratulations to you, I suppose?

      July 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • BermudaTriangle

      It's a shame you weren't buried in the sand!

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