Hundreds of endangered leatherback turtle hatchlings, as well as eggs, were destroyed in an environmental tragedy in Trinidad over the weekend, and advocates for the threatened wildlife are seeking answers in the accident.
The leatherback turtles and eggs were destroyed by excavating equipment, which was being used in an effort to protect the habitat of the turtles — an effort that went horribly awry for reasons that are not entirely clear.
According to CNN, the reason for the crane’s presence was twofold — workers were “redirecting a river that was endangering a major nesting habitat for leatherback turtles and encroaching on local hotels and businesses in Grande Riviere, a popular tourist spot on the Caribbean island’s north coast.”
However, hundreds of the turtle eggs and hatchlings were killed or harmed in the mishap, and some conservationists say “thousands” of the eggs were spotted “crushed up” at the scene. Grand Riviere environmentalist Sherwin Reyz said that as many as 20,000 eggs and hatchlings were destroyed, and Reyz tells Fox News:
“I don’t think anybody in their right mind could have done something like this… Here you are, tractoring up the sand, you seen the young turtles and instead of putting them away in the sand, you still crush them.”
In a statement, the Environmental Management Authority acknowledged the deaths of the hatchlings and destruction of the eggs, but counters that leaving things as they were would have also contributed to the deaths of leatherback turtles and erosion of their habitat:
“If left on its current course, the existing route of the river would have caused more erosion and loss to previous nesting sites… The EMA believes that this emergency action will have some positive impact on the overall population of leatherback turtles nestling in Grande Riviere.”
Only one in 1,000 leatherback turtle hatchlings are expected to survive to reproductive age, the news site says.