Thursday evening (June 2) a mature leatherback turtle was found in a bloody condition on Sandy Beach in Vieux Fort. The following day, the turtle was still laying in agony on the beach. Efforts by authorities to save the animal’s life were unsuccessful.
The animal sustained severe injuries—a cracked skull, gouged eyes and an incision to the left flipper. The animal was 47 inches wide and 66 inches long. Authorities are still uncertain whether the injuries were inflicted by human hands or whether the turtle may have gotten caught in a propeller. What is certain is the turtle was attempting to nest on Sandy Beach and it had a Martinique tag.
Local veterinarian Kirsty James was on the scene and spoke to the STAR. She believes the wounds were inflicted by people. She said, “I haven’t seen anything like this before. It was rather unfortunate. It was unfortunate that people did that. People consider eating the meat as an aphrodisiac but they don’t recognize the importance of animals.”
She went further to say: “I don’t think they were poachers. I think they happened upon the turtle. I would hate to think it was plain mischief because that would be even worse. I don’t think they were equipped to kill the animal. It seemed like they had a sharp object as evidenced by the injuries inflicted. The injury to the head was substantial. It was just horrifying to know the animal was in agony from the night before. There was nothing I could have done. Even if we were properly equipped, I don’t think it would have survived.”
James was comforted by the response of onlookers who attempted to save the turtle by putting seaweed on its back and dousing it with water. Someone loaned their backhoe and their time to assist the authorities in removing it from the area. She believes the turtle was probably very old and was born on the Sandy Beach shore that is why it returned to nest.
Sarah George is the Chief Fisheries Officer. She wants to remind the public that turtles in general are an endangered species and great care should be taken to preserve them.
“Our fisheries regulations do refer to the management and conservation of sea turtles and in particular the law protects nesting turtles,” she says. “Our regulations fully protect turtle eggs as well. So at no time are persons to interfere with nesting turtles in any way nor are they to remove turtle eggs from their nests.”
Those who breach the regulations and are caught can face a fine of up to $5,000. George encourages the public to desist from interfering with turtles, especially nesting turtles on beaches around the island.
George said: “If we can get support and compliance with these regulations then in a way, turtles, irrespective of where they come ashore will be successful in creating the next generation.”