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Costa Rica: Death of Conservationist Jairo Sandoval Sparks International Outrage, Demand for Justice

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Chris Pincetich, Outreach and Education manager of SeaTurtles.org, has started a petition, nearing 90,000 signatures, on Change.org to demand that the Costa Rican government take action to protect conservationists, like Jairo Mora Sandoval, who died two weeks ago while monitoring sea turtle nesting sites on Moin Beach.

 

According to Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (Widecast) Vice-president Cristina Volkart Obando, Jairo Mora Sandoval and three female volunteers, two of whom were from the U.S., were patroling leatherback sea turtle nesting sites on Moin beach, Costa Rica, at 3 a.m. Friday, May 31, when they were attacked by a group of armed, masked men. Mora was killed, while the three women were robbed and tied up.

 

In response, three support groups have cancelled their work with Widecast, Mora's employer organization, and Widecast is no longer operating on Moin Beach, a public beach, which does not enjoy the same level of protection and oversight as a national park in a country that thrives on and is well-regarded as an eco-tourism mecca.

 

Sea Turtle Conservancy founder Archie Carr, who has been working in the region since the 1950s, points to a conflict between conservation efforts and the local tradition of consuming the sea turtle eggs as food, aphrodisiacs and fertility agents.

 

The U.S. Embassy posted on its Facebook page stating it is “deeply concerned about the senseless death of Jairo Mora Sandoval, a committed environmentalist who was raising the alarm about the threats conservationists receive from criminal groups trafficking in drugs or wildlife.”

 

Todd Steiner, Executive Director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org) in Olema, California, released this statement:

“The work of protecting nesting beaches is basically done by nonprofit organizations and individuals who donate their time and resources to help. This entire conservation strategy is at risk. It’s critical that the whole world pays attention to this and assures that these murderers are brought to justice and there is a commitment from the government to protect individuals, the endangered species and the tourists who basically make the economy of Costa Rica work.”