Poachers Attack Activists in Costa Rica

Two injured while protecting endangered turtles

Project Jairo volunteers release sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean during the night. Two were injured during a routine nighttime patrol on Pacuare Beach. (Sea Shepherd)
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Two volunteers for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were injured during a confrontation with poachers in Costa Rica last Thursday, according to a press release on the organization’s website. Costa Rica’s population of leatherback sea turtles has suffered greatly in recent years from the activities of egg poachers, who rob turtle eggs from nests on the beach to sell as an aphrodisiac.

Sea Shepherd, an ocean conservationist group specializing in direct-action tactics, reported that the volunteers were patrolling Pacuare Beach when more than ten poachers, wielding branches and machetes, attacked them without provocation. The poachers shots at the guards after a security guard working for Sea Shepherd fired eight shots into the sand in an effort to scare the attackers away. (This isn’t the first time protecting sea turtle eggs has triggered violence. In 2013, an activist was murdered on Costa Rica’s Playa Moín, Outside reported.)

Although two were injured—including Brett Bradley, the ground leader for Operation Jairo (Sea Shepherd’s turtle defense campaign), and media crewmember Ellen Campbell—Bradley has since confirmed that all volunteers have been looked after and are undeterred. 

“The criminal poachers targeting Costa Rica’s endangered sea turtles are becoming increasingly frustrated that Sea Shepherd’s ground crew volunteers are standing in the way of their illegal activities,” David Hance, campaign coordinator for Sea Shepherd, said in the release. “Our team reports that after experiencing this violence at the hands of the poachers, they are more determined than ever to continue to protect the turtles.”

Sea Shepherd’s representatives traced the attack to an encounter on June 4 with a poacher on Pacuare Beach. They prevented him from stealing leatherback sea turtle eggs by physically surrounding the female turtle until it had finished nesting and returned to the ocean. Later in the month, a confidential informant told the group that poachers were planning to pursue a strategy of physical intimidation, after which the group informed the Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ). The group will file another complaint with OIJ in Bataan, Limon, following Thursday’s attack.

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