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Turtles slaughtered on Gorse Beach, Colonarie

Turtles slaughtered on Gorse Beach, Colonarie

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by Omesha Spence 08.MAY.09

“Stop killing the turtles. Conserve them!” This is the plea of Wild Life Protection Officer Fitzroy Springer, following the gruesome killing of three Leatherback turtles last week Thursday on the Gorse Beach at Colonarie.{{more}}

Springer, who visited the scene of the incident, confirmed to Searchlight, that parts of three Leatherback turtles were found on the beach around 6 am on Thursday, 30th April 2009.

The body of one turtle was found with its front limbs hacked off and its head smashed, and two other turtles, with their abdomens filled with eggs were also found. According to Springer, the turtle parts were found far away from each other. He also said that he received information confirming no fewer than ten turtle killings in the last week.

Female Leatherback turtles come ashore three times (every 21 days) a year to lay their eggs. According to research, they lay about 110 eggs in one clutch. The closed season is from March 1 to 31st July. Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys Coriacea) are currently on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list as an endangered species. The Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles, which also come to St. Vincent to lay their eggs, are also listed as endangered species.

The largest turtles of their kind, Leatherback turtles are about seven feet in length and four feet wide. Unlike other sea turtles, they do not have a shell, instead their backs are covered with thick leather. “They have a leathery looking back, like a truck tire,” Springer said. Springer also said that the veins of the turtle can also be seen running along its back.

According to Section 45 of the Fisheries Act, no person shall disturb, take, sell, purchase or have in their possession any undersized turtle or the shell of an undersized turtle during the closed season. Each species has a specific size which classifies them as undersized turtles. The disturbance of turtle eggs and nests during closed season is also illegal. Persons found guilty under this Act, could face a penalty of $5,000.

Speaking to Searchlight, Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan said that there has been significant poaching of turtles in St. Vincent for some time. “We have been grappling with this problem for a while,” he said. According to Ryan, the National Sea Turtle Conservation Programme was started as a result of the problem. The programme, started about three years ago, includes public education and outreach programmes about the need to protect turtles.

Ryan added his voice to Springer’s: “Try to refrain from catching turtles during the closed season,” he said. Ryan added that if this trend continues, more stringent procedures may need to be adapted or a more serious penalty considered.

The Police are currently investigating last week’s killings.

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