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20,000 Baby Leatherbacks Crushed By Bulldozers in Trinidad

20,000 Baby Leatherbacks Crushed By Bulldozers in Trinidad

Tourists flock to Trinidad’s northern coast to see little leatherback turtle hatchlings crawl from their sandy nests and make their way to the sea. While leatherbacks lay up to 85 eggs at a time, less than one percent survive into adulthood. Some 20,000 eggs and hatchlings were crushed by heavy machinery on a Trinidad beach this past Saturday due to — no other way to put it — human error.

Government work crews with bulldozers had been called in to redirect a river that was eroding the Grande Riviere beach, which is considered the densest nesting area in the world for leatherbacks. The river’s shifting had been threatening the foundation of the Mount Plaisir Estate hotel where many tourists stay and the hotel’s management had been urging that the government do something for months.

As Marc de Verteuil, of the Papa Bois Conservation organization, tells the Guardian, the work crews dug too large of a swatch from the beach and their “equipment was basically crushing a much, much larger part of the beach than made sense.” Thousands of leatherback eggs were either crushed or consumed by dogs and vultures. Says Sherwin Reyz, a member of the Grande Riviere Environmental Organisation, “They had a very good meal. I was near tears. It was a disgusting mess.” Reyz was among volunteers who helped to save hundreds of hatchlings.

The Trinidad government has yet to respond, says the BBC.

Tourists ended up seeing dozens of hatchlings dying before their eyes. Italian hotelier Piero Guerrini commented that “This really put a lot of bad images in people’s minds.”

The tragic death of so many thousands of leatherbacks from a clearly avoidable human blunder highlights how tourism poses severe threats to fragile ecosystems. Conservationists just issued a report about the excessive amounts of water tourists in developing countries use. Tourists often use 16 times as much water as local residents in the Gambia, Bali in Indonesia, the islands of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania, and Goa and Kerala in India, according to the report by the organization Tourism Concern.

Tourism brings in dollars but also, as the tragedy in Trinidad makes too clear, terrible damages.

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101 comments

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2:16PM PDT on Mar 20, 2013

So very sad, Trinidad will have alot of PR to clean up after this.

9:58AM PST on Dec 4, 2012

In general, one should be suspicious of heavy machinery in a environmentally fragile area. You cannot blame the tourist economy for lousy business planning mistakes, except when it can be devastating? Probably, none of it would have happened if there was not heavy machinery.

4:50AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

Petition signed.

4:50AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

Heartbreaking.

6:11PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

how much more stupid can people be? this is a known breeding ground for the turtles and heavy machines are brought in No scouting or investigation of the area is done No empathy no cares about the damage......how pitiful

7:59AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

What, are these people primitive and stupid ?
oh, yeah, looks that way.
It has always amazed me how so many people have no concept of empathy.

3:56AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

I am so very tired of hearing of these cruel acts against nature.

8:29PM PST on Nov 27, 2012

Cannot even finish reading this article. It made me sick.

11:15AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

So careless and heartbreaking. There poor gorgeous turtles :(

10:05PM PDT on Aug 9, 2012

T_T

Absolutely sickening!! A travesty. Leatherbaks are one of the most endangered species on this earth. 20 000.... It's unbelivable

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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