Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Inquiry urged after turtle deaths

Leatherback sea turtles, which can live to 100 years, will return to lay their eggs on the beach of their birth

A Trinidad and Tobago conservation group has called for a prompt investigation into how government work crews crushed leatherback turtle eggs and hatchlings on a remote beach that experts say is the globe's densest nesting site for the endangered marine species.

Witnesses in Trinidad's tiny town of Grand Riviere said they saw thousands of leatherback eggs crushed by heavy machinery over the weekend as workers redirected a shifting river that was eroding the nesting sites and threatening a hotel where tourists stay to catch a glimpse of a tiny leatherback hatchling or a massive adult, which can reach nearly eight feet long and weigh more than a ton.

The Papa Bois Conservation group said the government allowed the crew to operate a bulldozer and an excavator "without any qualified supervision" on the ecologically sensitive Grand Riviere beach where female leatherbacks nest.

"It is important to investigate how this was allowed to happen, and to find a solution so this won't reoccur," the group said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

The narrow Grand Riviere beach in northern Trinidad is regarded as the densest nesting site for the turtle species on the planet and local residents depend on ecotourism for their livelihoods.

Experts say that Trinidad hosts what is likely the second largest leatherback nesting colony in the world, after the nesting beaches shared by Suriname and French Guiana to the south.

Marc de Verteuil, of the Papa Bois Conservation organisation, said that because of an unusually long rainy season the meandering Grande Riviere River had already eroded a lot of the nesting areas on the beach before the weekend, but that government crews made a bad situation far worse.

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