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. asdf

    Oh man. This article made me hungry for some turtle soup.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Canopy

    "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."

    The objective was to save the local businesses not preserve the nesting area. Its a popular tourist area so why should anyone be surprised and angry. ITS BIG BUSINESS and its in the Caribbean. Perhaps they should not have BUILT on wetlands. GREED

    July 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • nervetheblog

      The very interesting thing is that the hotel owners themselves admitted that this was not how they'd wanted it to go. Of course they have an interest in preserving these turtles...they make their money by admitting tourists who come see them each year.

      This travesty was sadly not even motivated by money. It was just caused by carelessness.

      July 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hugh Jass

    It went like this: "To heck with the turtles. We want the tourists happy!" That's why most places are made of concrete and glass, not sand and palm trees. Pretty soon the turtles will be all gone, and so will the tourists, but there will be some great concrete parking lots so it's all good.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gordon Gekko

    GREED is good!

    July 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. david

    Dr. Leakey put it correctly, if you look back in history the only guarantee is extinction, and us Humans are no different. We have poluted the planet with our numbers. Earth will be far better off without us, and in time, that wii happen.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Aaron

    In other news, an anti-gun protester accidentally shot himself and several others with a gun he had confiscated from an NRA member...

    July 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nat Strafaci

    "Don't it always seem to go, You don't know what you've got "till it's gone? They paved paradise, to put up a parking lot.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Johnny Walker

    Omeletes anyone?

    July 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HIDE BEHIND

    For some "!&0 #%)& reason first post deleted so once again.
    Having seen one giant sea turtle in the waters offshore of Vietnam and lesser ones in other waters, and having seen whales and such close up, I do not think that all humans lives are worth even one iota as much as one of those vanishing creatures.
    The "artificial world" of humanity has created a species of self destructive animals that will destroy each and every living thing. not in search of survival but for temporary pleasure and comforts.
    The last vistage that may well someday be left to show life once existed here will probably be a plastic dil..do.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Spoken like a true sociopath.

      "I do not think that all humans lives are worth even one iota as much as one of those vanishing creatures."

      Yeah...you're definitely a sociopath.

      July 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marigold

      If you remove yourself from the planet, that would be one less totally worthless human to pollute these boards...

      July 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. david

    It's Obama's fault.

    July 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      It's true, it is Obama's fault. If the economy did not improve and continued down the road started by Bush, no Americans would have any money to go there and there would be no need to bull doze the beach.

      July 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DEPSTER

    Where's TURTLE MAN when we need him!!!!!!

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

    Hundreds? That would be, like, ONE nest. Perspective. This story hasn't any.

    July 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Peace

    Ridiculous. It breaks my heart.

    July 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pork&beans

    Once again, people destroy.

    July 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erika

      You are so right and its a tragedy. It should be news because I am betting half of the dumb-a$$ people out there who get maimed, injured or killed from doing stupid stuff were probably asking for it. Helpless turtles get killed and hurt when they are just trying to live and that is very sad. I have trouble feeling sorry or sad for PEOPLE who do dumb things and get killed – stupid is as stupid does. Hah!

      July 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dakota2000

    funny- Israeli bulldozer runs over american activist- no news.
    A few hatchlings damaged- whole page .

    July 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • bannister

      That's because Turtles don't control our media....

      July 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • XxMacleodxX

      if you are stupid enough to stand in front of a bulldozer in a war zone then you deserve no recognition other than Darwin's

      July 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zaphod2010

      Sorry but it seems that animals are more worthy than a lot of people living in this Earth!

      July 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc S

      Turtle eggs can't move

      July 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
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