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. Rascal Rabble

    maybe they should send melinda "jane" gates to the third world leatherback turtle women on the importance of having one turtle atta time...

    July 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HIDE BEHIND

    I stated not all of humanity, has value above those creatures.

    Humans are yet animals and many act in ways detrimental to humanity as a whole in order to pleasure themselves or out of greed, avarice, or and. in some with a sadistic glee at seeing humans and animals suffer.
    Then there are the indifferent variety who still dhow traits of the animals who but think by instant and instance with no thought of a future.
    If dealing within reality is a mark of a sociopath then what is the ignoring of the reality around us?
    I fear less from a sociopath, as they exhibit traits one can watch and defend against, it is the passive regressive that scares the he... out of me.

    July 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      its people like you that are even more scary with your inability to distinguish human life and human dignity from that of animals...

      July 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee Dee

      You stated " I do not think that all humans lives are worth even one iota as much as one of those vanishing creatures."
      Is English not your first language?

      July 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. brian

    mmmmmmmmm baby turtle soup.

    I like turtles!

    July 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. China Number One USA so P U

    You stink lousy americans kill turtles have to pick on helpless because scared of CHINA WORLD POWER HA HA HA

    July 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tony

    Where's PETA now, oh yeah waiting for school kids to get off the bus to ditribute their litrature of slaughtered pigs.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KKDenver

    I am the lord and master of all I survey
    -Yertle the Turtle

    July 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Omen

    Most Human races are a bad virus. 35% good virus.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Argle Bargle

    Ah, humanity. Kill a thousand to save a hundred.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    CNN ..you deleted yet another one on my posts on this thread. What did I say out of line now. But someone at CNN allows some to post real trash, worse than I'd ever consider writing.
    What's going on???

    July 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. someGuy

    Apparently you can only care about animals, or humans. Just like you can either believe in god, or evolution.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Maybe I need to just plain quit. Seeing that someones deleting my posts anyways. Is that what this is. Don't call me. Do not email me. Don't post nothing on here for me.
    Maybe I'll just disappear.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      @Jeff Frank:
      No!!!
      You can't go anywhere!
      There ARE some here that I could give a flying if they disappeared, but you aren't one of them!
      Stay!

      July 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Really?

    I have been to that very beach to witness an amazing thing – the leatherbacks: The oldest dinsosaurs that still exist. I understand the need to protect structures and preserve the beach, but to dig at this time of year? Really? Everyone knows this is the time of year that the hatchlings are coming out of the ground. A little pre-planning and effort could have ensured that this did not happen. Even without man, a sea turtle has horrible chances of making it to adulthood. These turtles really are something from our past, they can live for over 100 years – and they truly are on the brink. My heart ached when I read this story. Please do not let it happen again – it was a needless loss.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mitt Romney

    I feel very sorry for the baby turtles....no wait, I feel very sorry for the bulldozers...no wait, fell sorry for the turtles....

    July 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dee Dee

      THAT'S funny!!!!!

      July 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Forrest

    "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."

    So it's killing when eggs of an animal are lost? Pro-lifers should be jumping all over this double standard.

    July 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ...

      I somehow doubt that the human race is in danger of extinction.

      July 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cupcake

    those turtles were so harmless why did they have to hurt the little things. They did not do anything to us people. Turtles
    don't hurt people .turtles are so cute i used to have a pet snapping turtle.

    July 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
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