Thousands of turtle eggs destroyed in excavation

Hotel foundation work mistakenly digs up nesting beaches in Trinidad and Tobago

A A A

Conservationists are blaming the government of Trinidad and Tobago for the loss of as many as 20,000 leatherback turtle eggs after excavation crews overran a beach that has long been considered one of the most important nesting grounds for the endangered species.

"It was a disgusting mess," Sherwin Reyz, of the Grand Riviere Environmental Organisation, said of the scene on a mile-long beach on the northern shore of Trinidad. Those eggs that were not crushed were eaten by dogs and vultures once they had been exposed. "They had a very good meal, I was near tears. This is the worst set of destruction I have ever seen by humans on turtles."

The carnage occurred last weekend as crews tried to redirect the shifting estuary of the Grand Riviere which had been threatening the foundations of a nearby hotel. Guests staying there delight in watching the nesting rituals of the leatherbacks, which can grow to weigh a tonne and live for 100 years.

But according to witnesses and to the owner of the Mt Plaisir hotel, Piero Guerrini, the government had delayed the start of the work and then at the last moment dispatched a team with heavy machinery. It seems they botched the job, digging up a wider swathe of beach than was necessary.

"For some reason they dug up the far end of the beach, absolutely encroaching into the good nesting areas," said Mr Guerrini. "This could have been avoided with a much wiser approach. But it was done too late and it was done in the wrong way."

Guests at the hotel, who had checked in hoping to watch the miraculous moment when eggs crack open and hatchlings make for the water – only 1 per cent survive to adulthood – instead watched the destruction in horror. Some joined with locals in scooping up about 500 hatchlings in hopes they could be saved. "Before, the authorities were much quicker, much more responsive and also concerned about the turtle nesting areas," Mr Guerrini told the Associated Press. "This time, there seemed to be no concern."

Experts said that while the loss was distressing, the long-term impact on the leatherback turtle population may not be too significant. "This one event will not change the course of leatherback conservation in the Caribbean," said Marydele Donnelly, of the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy.

Several Caribbean nations, including Costa Rica, have made strides in recent years to protect the turtles while at the same time making some of their nesting areas accessible to tourists to help raise awareness. Trinidad and Tobago outlawed the killing of sea turtles in 1966. Recognisable from their long flippers, the leatherbacks are the largest of all the sea turtle species and are considered critically endangered.

In spite of the protection efforts, the outlook for the leatherbacks is perilous. Conservation groups estimate that only about 43,000 nesting females remain around the world compared to about 115,000 in 1980.

"Their equipment was basically crushing a much, much larger part of the beach than made sense. It looked like a bit of a panic reaction and they didn't follow procedure," Marc de Verteuil, of the Papa Bois Conservation organization said of the excavation work. "It's a failure of governance."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week