Sea Turtles: "The Pandemic Poaching Pandemic"

"In Costa Rica, Panama, and elsewhere, COVID-19 lockdowns caused suddenly desperate people to begin poaching sea turtle eggs and meat, threatening hard-won conservation achievements."

"Miguel Torres spends most of his nights playing a game of cat and mouse. Along with seven colleagues, Torres, a wildlife refuge patrolman, conducts hourly sweeps around Ostional Beach, in northwestern Costa Rica, looking for sea turtle poachers. The key to winning this game, Torres says, is to be as dark as possible. If poachers see you on your phone at the patrol post, they know the coast is clear. If you use your flashlight too much, you give away your position.

Torres only flashes his light when his well-trained eyes see a shadow that’s out of place. That flash is usually enough to send poachers fleeing. And on April 15, 2021, at about midnight, Torres and a colleague came upon three suspicious shadows where the jungle meets the beach. Brandishing his flashlight, he saw two of them bolt into the night. The third shadow remained, squirming in the darkness.

When Torres and his partner got a better look, they froze. It was an olive ridley sea turtle writhing on its back. Its stomach was sliced open, and a trail of eggs led to a hastily abandoned plastic bag and a kitchen knife plunged into the sand."

Alexander Villegas reports for Hakai magazine July 21, 2021.

Source: Hakai, 07/23/2021