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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape