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Sea turtle massacre in Mexico

Sea turtle massacre in Mexico

Sea turtle massacre in Mexico
Rhett A. Butler,
August 11, 2005

Using machetes, poachers killed some 80 protected Olive Ridley sea turtles on Escobilla beach in Oaxaca, Mexico last weekend. The poachers were believed to be after turtle eggs, thought to be an aphrodisiac among locals. The discovery of the massacre was accouned by Profepa, the government’s environmental protection agency.

“They killed them with blows to the head and machetes. It is very brutal, the beach would have been covered in blood,” said leading environmental campaigner Homero Aridjis in a report from Reuters.

The poachers wasted some 1,800 pounds (800 kg) of valuable turtle flesh which was found on the sand and floating in the surf.

In response, the navy has sent two ships to the area to step up protection of turtle nesting areas. Killing or capturing Olive Ridley turtles, the world’s smallest species of sea turtle, has been banned in Mexico since 1990.

Olive Ridleys feed on jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, rock lobsters, sea grasses, algae, snails, and fish. They are listed by the US Endangered Species Act, though the populations found in areas around the Pacific Ocean appear to be on the rise.

Globally sea turtles are endangered by the collection of their eggs, poaching for their meat, and as bycatch in the fishing industry. The Pacific Ocean is home to five species of widely distributed sea turtles, all of which are long-lived and slow growing. They take from 10 to 30 years to reach maturity and exhibit complex life cycles involving eggs laid in nests on tropical beaches, natal beach homing and extraordinary feeding and breeding migrations that can span the entire Pacific Ocean. Sea turtle populations are slow to increase and replace themselves.

In 2003 a group of 25 experts met in Bellagio, Italy to draft a conservation plan for Pacific Sea Turtles. The Bellagio Blueprint for Action on Pacific Sea Turtles calls for: (1) the protection of all nesting beaches; (2) reducing turtle take in at-sea and coastal fisheries; (3) stimulating Pan-Pacific policy actions; and (4) encouraging the sustainability of the traditional use of sea turtles.

Aug 19, 2005 Update: Mexican authorities announced they will use posters of scantily dressed young women to promote the protection of endangered sea turtles.

According to Reuters, in September the Mexican government will launch an advertisement campaign featuring an Argentine model to dispel myths that sea turtle eggs are an aphrodisiac.

“My man doesn’t need turtle eggs. Because he knows they don’t make him more potent,” reads the poster, aimed at stopping poachers from stealing eggs.

A women’s rights group has protested the posters saying they degrade women despite their environmental intentions.

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This article used information from a Reuters by Alistair Bell.