Hundreds, possibly thousands, of newly hatched critically endangered leatherback turtles were massacred during an excavation project in Trinidad.
A government bulldozer and excavator had been ordered to redirect the Grande Riviere River, which was eroding the beachfront where hotels and homes are located, according to Trinidad Express Newspaper.
Despite the horrific tragedy, excavation work continued throughout the day at the third most prolific sea turtle nesting site in the world.
Piero Guerrini, owner of the Mt. Plaisir Estate Restaurant and Hotel, said the incident was “a shock”. He had apparently called the Ministry two weeks prior because the hotel was threatened by erosion.
This is a shock. On the one hand the erosion needed to be stopped but what has happened here is not right.
Planning Minister Dr. Bhoe Tewarie said at a press conference that the Drainage Division of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure should be held accountable for the turtle massacre and that it could not be excused.
He added that an “incompatibility of policies” needed to be addressed by the government.
Local environmentalist Sherwin Reyz told CBS News that as many as 20,000 leatherback hatchlings perished on Sunday.
I don’t think anybody in their right mind could have done something like this. Here you are, tractoring up the sand, you see the young turtles and instead of putting them away in the sand, you still crush them.
Community volunteers managed to save an estimated 500 baby turtles.
Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ and their population is decreasing.
The IUCN notes that the main threats to leatherbacks are illegal egg harvesting, longline and drifnet fishing, and oceanic pollution (especially plastics).
Image by Dtobias via Wikimedia Commons