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Activist Murdered for Protecting Sea Turtles

Activist Murdered for Protecting Sea Turtles

Last Friday morning, the bound and beaten body of Jairo Mora Sandoval, a 26-year-old sea turtle activist in Costa Rica, was found on Moín Beach on the Caribbean coast near Limón, the very place where he had labored to save endangered sea turtles and their eggs. Mora had been shot in the head and conservation groups are offering a $10,000 reward for his murder.

Mora, three American women and one from Spain who were volunteering as turtle surveyors, were kidnapped by armed men on Thursday night, says The four women were let go unharmed.

Didiher Chacón, the coordinator for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network program, says that Mora’s killing “seemed like an act of revenge.” The activist had recently connected the poaching of turtle eggs to drug trafficking in a national newspaper. Poaching has indeed been linked to drug trafficking in Mexico, as turtle conservationist Wallace J. Nichols wrote in 2009.

Turtle eggs are believed to be an aphrodisiac in Costa Rica, according to A single nest can contain as many as 200 eggs; a single turtle egg can fetch $1 on the black market.

Could Maro’s Death Have Been Prevented?

Back in April of 2012, poachers had raided a hatchery where volunteers were reburying turtle nests. The poachers tied up the volunteers and took all the eggs, says Vanessa Lizano, the head of a rescue center who frequently patrolled the beaches with Mora.

After the hatchery theft, armed police began to accompany the two activists on their night patrols. But Lizano was forced to leave her job as a volunteer coordinator for the Moín sea turtle program when she received a threat along with pictures of her young son. She still continued to work at the rescue center and to walk the beaches on weekends with Mora.

Turtles begin to lay their eggs in April. Limón police says they guard Moín beach four days a week, but the guarded night patrols did not continue. Mora’s awareness of the amount of danger to the turtles and to himself was apparent in an April 23rd Facebook message in which he asked that police come to Moín Beach. Noting that 60 turtles had been lost, Mora wrote “don’t be afraid, but just come armed.”

Limón police say they have interviewed nine people in connection with Mora’s killing and have turned over the information to Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police to help in the investigation.

Conservationists have expressed widespread grief over Mora’s death, which, they say, could have been prevented in view of the hatchery theft and the threats to Lizano and her family. Arturo Rodríguez proclaims via Twitter that “Jairo Mora had to die so that the authorities would pay attention. And we are the happiest country in the world? I don’t think so.”

Todd Steiner, a wildlife biologist and executive director of, emphasizes that “the whole world is watching to make sure the Costa Rican government brings these thugs to justice and makes sea turtle nesting beaches safe for conservationists to do their work.”

Costa Rica has become known for making ecotourism central to its economy and its president, Laura Chinchilla, has pledged on Twitter that “coordinated actions with Limón judicial authorities must insure no impunity” for those who killed Mora.” As Andrew Revkin writes in the New York Times, Chinchilla must make good on her pledge and seek justice for Mora by finding and prosecuting whoever killed him. It is the least that can be done to honor his heroic advocacy on behalf of Costa Rica’s endangered turtles.

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1:17PM PDT on Sep 27, 2013


2:36AM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

This is so tragic, a caring young man sacrificed so brutally in the name of greed, and tbe ignorance of males who believe that their sexual inadequacy can be enhanced through magic.

5:21AM PDT on Jul 11, 2013

very sad but thanks for sharing

11:47PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013


11:46PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013


9:02PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

What a tragedy-I hope they find the people who did this terrible thing.

9:18AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

How awful! Protecting animals is an ongoing war!

4:53AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

Really tragic!

3:01AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013


6:43AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Who knows what this poor man went through, all we know is that he was a good person and has gone to a good place.

Let us hope that his death will not be in vain, poachers are a low form of life, it is no surprise that they thought they were entitled to threaten whoever they want to get whatever they want, they are selfish, immoral people and it should not be/never have been left up to activists to make them follow the law.

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