The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter
Brutal Murder of a Young Turtle Protector
Researched by E.M. Fay
Jairo Mora Sandoval, a 26-year-old biology
student and wildlife conservationist, had dedicated himself to the cause of
saving the critically endangered leatherback turtles of his homeland, Costa
Rica. Tragically, his valiant work to stop the theft of turtle eggs by gangs
of criminals resulted in his own death at the hands of the same people he
was fighting on behalf of the turtles.
In April, Jairo posted a poignant and urgent message on his Facebook
page, imploring his friends to send the police to Moin beach, on the
Caribbean side of Costa Rica, an area that had been repeatedly plundered by
“hueveros,” or egg thieves. Part of what he wrote: “60 turtles are
lost – there wasn’t even a nest left. We need help and soon.” He
said the police must come armed and be brave, as this was a serious
situation with dangerous people involved.
Jairo’s message was read by at least 135 persons, and was part of his
attempt to bring attention to the plight of the largest of living turtles,
whose eggs are constantly under threat from local people who loot the nests,
then sell the eggs to drug traffickers.
Shortly after his Facebook post, Jairo wrote in La Nacion that
delinquents were “stamping out” the sea turtle, and environmentalists like
himself were being harassed by a “mafia” of hueveros. As an employee of the
state-run animal rescue organization, Paradero Eco-Tour, as well as the
Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, Jairo was well known to be
passionate about his conservation work. He and a network of volunteers
patrolled the beaches, and reported suspicious activity to the authorities.
Unfortunately, his personal visibility may have made him a prime target of
the unscrupulous hueveros.
On Friday, May 31st, as he was coming back from a night-long patrol on a
turtle nesting beach near Limon, Jairo was abducted by “unknown assailants,”
beaten, robbed, and murdered. He was found bound, naked, and shot in
the head. Four volunteer colleagues, all female and foreign-born, had
been shoved into a car as they were on patrol. They later gave
evidence to the police.
This was not the first crime against humans who are trying to save the
turtles in Costa Rica. Last year, a gang of men with AK-47s burst into
a turtle nursery on the same beach, bound and gagged the volunteers who were
tending to the young leatherbacks, and stole 1,520 eggs from the 19
Human predation on turtle eggs is nothing new, but poaching has greatly
increased in recent years. It is especially prevalent near the Caribbean
city of Limon. Costa Rica officially outlawed it in 1966, and the Marine
Turtle Population Law of 2002 creates a three-year prison sentence for
anyone who “kills, hunts, captures, decapitates, or disturbs marine
turtles.” However, the authorities seem to speak out of both sides of
their mouth on this issue, for the Costa Rican government officially
sanctions the “harvesting” of sea turtle eggs – cruelly, right in
front of the mothers who have just laid them in the sand. This is
allowed allegedly as part of an economic program for poor natives. But
does the bereft mother know or care about the difference? Whether it
is government-sponsored theft or theft by criminal gangs, her babies are
lost forever, and the turtle population is declining precipitously.
The government says they are “managing” the harvesting of eggs with an
eye to conservation, but whether this is true or not, the fact is that on
the Caribbean coast the eggs are now a kind of currency and are routinely
exchanged for drugs. Part of the blame for this goes to Southeast
Asia, where people consider leatherback eggs a delicacy worth paying for.
There is no doubt about the suffering and potential extinction of the
leatherbacks caused by this wanton trafficking. Additionally,
ecologists warn that their decimation is resulting in an inevitable increase
in the population of stinging jellyfish, whose numbers the leatherbacks used
to keep in check. At 6 feet long and up to 900 lbs., the turtles are
an essential part of the eco-system.
Costa Rican President, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, expressed her shock at
the murder of Jairo Mora Sandoval, and called on all authorities to work
together to solve this “abominable murder.” However, the Chief of
Police in Limon stated that the number of officers assigned to protecting
turtle nests and environmentalists was insufficient.
Certainly, without such noble souls as Jairo, this world is a sadder
Fare Thee Well, Jairo, Protector of the Ancient Mariner.
Please demand that the police of Costa Rica protect the sea turtles and
their protectors. We applaud Costa Rica and President Chinchilla-Miranda for
abolishing sport hunting, and urge the protection of the beloved sea
Embassy of Costa Rica in the U. S., 2114 S Street, N.W., Washington, DC
202-234-2945, 202-234-2946, 202-234-8653
Minister Counselor for Environmental and Cultural Affairs
Anna María Oduber
Go on to Remembering Warren Doyno
and a Precious Moment for C.A.S.H.
Back to Summer 2013 Table of Contents
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