Slaughter of turtles raising concern

Locally based Conservationists have expressed concern about the continued slaughter of Leatherback turtles on Grande Anse beach.

Doctor Horst Michael Vogel, the  Head of Programme for Caribbean Aqua-Terrestial Solutions (CATS), has reported discovering a turtle grave on the beach on Saturday, April 9, 2016.

Grande Anse beach, on the North East Atlantic coast of Saint Lucia, was once famous as a sea turtle watch site, in particular for the critically endangered Leatherback, Vogel observed.

He observed that according to ‘The State of the World’s Sea Turtles’, there are 61 Leatherback nesting sites in North East Saint Lucia.

“From my observations that is history, which the recently renamed ‘Grande Anse Sea Turtle and Nature Defenders’ try to reverse. Unfortunately, all past and current efforts to do so, including substantial CATS support in 2014 and 2015, have so far come to nothing!” Vogel lamented in an email that was circulated to the Times.

He asserted that Leatherbacks, just like all sea turtles, can provide a vital source of income as a draw for ecotourism in coastal communities, which is what CATS and others wish to support.

“Along with such livelihood endeavor goes image and perception,” Vogel explained.

One source described the turtle slaughter as “disheartening” despite the gains made in 2014 and 2015.

“It  seems  that  the only  deterrent  to  the  poachers  and  bandits  was the continuous  nighttime  presence of  a  turtle  watching  crew,” the source observed.

He proposed that in the absence of a turtle watching crew, the feasibility of using Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) or drones fitted with compact infrared thermal cameras to monitor Grande Anse beach during the turtle nesting season should be explored.

However in making the proposal, the source observed that one concern could be that the buzz of the drone’s rotors could disturb the turtles or the endemic species.

“Under  our  local  laws  the  use  of  IR/thermal  cameras are ere  restricted  and  permission  must  be  obtained  from  the  Commissioner  of  Police ,but  I  think  that  this  can  be arranged  through  our  Forestry  and  Fisheries  Departments,” He added.

The source admitted that his suggestion might be a “wild idea” but said something need to be done about the “perennial” poaching problem.

“  There  are  times  when  it  is  better  to  try  and  fail  than  to  fail  to  try,” the source concluded.