Trinidad Express / Over 80 leatherback turtle hatchlings were found dead after a beach party bonfire claimed their lives in Blanchisseuse.
The national community is outraged after photographs and videos were circulated on social media showing the bonfire and the dead baby turtles.
Turtle nesting season is between March and September.
According to the assistant secretary of the Blanchisseuse Environment Community Organization Sabia Fournillier said approximately three weeks ago, a party took place at Marianne Beach, Blanchisseuse.
Video provided by the Environment Community Organization
Despite there being warning signs informing the public that the area was a popular turtle nesting ground, the partygoers ignored this, lit a fire, stood, watched and continued their party.
Beneath the burning inferno was a leatherback turtle nest where Fournillier said the hatchlings were just one day away from making their way to the surface and continuing on the long journey to the sea.
Fournillier, who witnessed the tragedy recounted what took place.
“We are on patrol at the beach. We know that the turtles are coming ashore and were making sure that they were safe from people. We came across the people and they were lighting the fire. One of our group members went to talk to them about the fire. The police was called but when the police left they didn’t put-out the fire. They even left it lighting throughout, until the morning. When we came ,we dug a little and found the babies all dead. Not one survived,” said Fournillier.
Video Of Bon Fire being shared on social media.
She said that turtles had little chance of survival and died as a result of being trapped beneath the sand. She said the turtles would have tried to escape, however, the scorching heat would have killed them.
The video circulating on social media shows the fire on the beach while patrons of the party are looking on and loud music was being played. The photos show the dead leatherback turtles, some still half buried in the sand.
Fournillier said a party organizer is attempting to make amends by providing fund-raisers and will engage in an awareness campaign.
However, for the community, it was a great loss.
She said: “I would love if people would not do something like this again. Do your research about the turtles. There is always talk of the turtles coming to Trinidad to lay eggs. This is unacceptable. People need to educate themselves.” She also said those renting the beach front for parties, knew of the turtle nesting in the area and did nothing to prevent the incident from occurring.
Some on social media called for the persecution of those involved while others expressed their sadness over the deaths.
One person said: “Why on earth would you decide to have a bon fire on the said beach when it is known to be nesting time for turtles. Such an event would notably have direct and or indirect consequences to the turtles … be it the eggs and or hatchlings and or adult why chance it? Come on they already have to contend with poachers, dogs and idiots who want to ride on their backs give the turtles a chance they need all the help we can give to survive. Do better!”
Another said: “You live on an island where the shores are frequented by turtles during the nesting season. We are all aware of the nesting season. Whether they sought permission or not common sense should have prevailed!”
The party organizer, Sunsetters, on its Facebook page issued a press release based on the claims being made by the Blanchisseuse Environment Community Organization that the event caused the deaths of the nesting turtles.
It claimed that the necessary permissions for the event were made and that the organisation had a discussion with Blanchisseuse Environment Community Organization members over the incident.
The release stated: “After discussions with the group, we were informed that the nest of hatchlings were discovered two days after our event, however we were also told that the area is prone to the loss of hatchlings for various reasons, such as beach erosion and predators during the nesting season. The core concept of Sunsetters is enjoying our environment responsibly. All due diligence was made in preparation for the party, we ensured all permissions from the property owner was in place and the area used was outside of the known nesting zones. We also ensure the spaces we use are cleaned thoroughly after our patrons leave.
It was only on the evening of the event, approximately one hour after our Bon Fire was lit, that we were informed by persons from the BECG (Blanchisseuse Environment Community Organization) to move said fire further inland. We immediately attempted to extinguish it, unfortunately, due to the size of the fire and the prevailing winds it rekindled and had to be extinguished again. After consulting with experts, unfortunately, due to the significant amount of time passed before this was brought to anyone’s attention, it was impossible to ascertain if the nest was affected by the Bon Fire, especially since the hatchlings were discovered by the BECG due to dogs digging up the nest.
This being said, we believe that it is our duty to work with the community ensure an incident such as this never occurs again. In our talks with a representative today, Ms. Sabia Fournillier, we have committed to working together to help develop a nesting area on the beach, where eggs can be safely deposited for hatching, so that no harm can come to them accidentally or otherwise. Further discussions will be had over the next few months, after the turtle season to work with the Community via a fundraiser as well as adding some man power to a beach clean-up exercise so that we can all share the space with these beautiful creatures responsibly. In addition to this, Sunsetters recognizes the need to include NGOs and Community Leaders in the planning phases of our events in order to fully affirm our commitment to enjoying and protecting the spaces we use for our parties and promotions.”