Thousands endangered sea turtle hatchlings and eggs were crushed over the weekend when attempts to stop erosion on a tourist beach in Trinidad went badly wrong.
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, according to the Daily Mail.
However, the workers severely damaged a nesting area with a bulldozer and an excavator, killing or harming hundreds of unhatched turtle eggs, the local conservation groups said.
A statement from the Environmental Management Authority acknowledged that hundreds of turtles had been killed during attempts to divert the river’s course.
“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 said. “The EMA believes that this emergency action will have some positive impact on the overall population of leatherback turtles nestling in Grande Riviere.”
A rescue attempt did manage to save some of the turtle hatchlings, but local conservationists say they’re demanding a meeting with government officials to prevent the situation from happening again.
“It is important to investigate how this was allowed to happen and to find a solution so this won’t reoccur in future,” said Marc de Verteuil of Papa Bois Conservation, which works in Trinidad and Tobago.
De Verteuil said the beach had been suffering from erosion for weeks. He said the shoreline and river edge should have been stabilized, rather than the “very intrusive major earthworks” that ended up taking place.
The beach is a major nesting ground for leatherback turtles, listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Thousands of turtles return to the area where they were born to dig burrows in the sand and lay their eggs during nesting season, according to local conservation groups.