TRINIDAD – Work crews in Trinidad ended up crushing turtle hatchlings and eggs while trying to reroute a river in an attempt to protect turtle nests and a nearby hotel.
Conservationists initially told the Trinidad Express and the Associated Press that thousands of turtles had been killed by the botched job, yet the estimated toll has since gone down with Environmental Management CEA Dr. Joth Singh quoting only a few hundred lost.
“Mr Peters indicated that contrary to reports, only a few hundred hatchlings were unfortunately lost in the action,” Singh said in a statement issued late yesterday and quoted in the Trinidad Express.
The accidental turtle kill took place on Saturday and Sunday, when excavators from the Drainage Division of the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure went onto the beach to divert the Grande Riviere River, which had swung west and eroded the beach front – threatening both turtle nests and houses.
In a dark twist, their move to protect the turtles actually killed hundreds of them.
Grande Riviere is home to Trinidad’s highest concentration of turtle nests during the laying season— it is the third-most important turtle-nesting site in the world.
Of the many sea turtles that nest here, the critically endangered leatherback turtle is the most well-known. It is the largest of all living sea turtles and the fourth largest reptile. Having survived for more than a hundred million years, leatherbacks are now facing extinction.
Grande Riviere is Trinidad’s most nest-intensive beach during the laying season of sea turtles – including the critically endangered leatherback – and is the third most prolific site in the world. The nesting season runs from May to September every year.
Singh said the Ministry’s intervention was necessary but could have been “done better”.
The EMA has also contended that more nesting ground and possibly part of the beach-front community would have been lost to the meandering river had the earthworks not been done.
Others in the community, including members of the Grande Riviere Environmental Organisation, disagreed, saying the works were unnecessary and that a new mouth for the river could have been created with less loss of turtle life. They point to the many beachfront homes in the area as the main reason that the government intervened as they did.