Leatherback slaughtered in July 2009 as she came up to nest,
the horror has been captured by a British tourist, who wept when he found her remains
On dark, isolated beaches, away from the hotels and tourists on the sunny Caribbean island of Tobago, leatherback turtles are being brutally slaughtered. Their flippers are chopped off with machetes for the meagre amount of wild meat they provide.
Alone and trembling, these magnificent, vulnerable creatures are left in agony to bleed to death. The more efficient slayers wait amongst the trees until a turtle comes up to lay, lift her into a boat, and slaughter her in secret before dumping the carcass in the sea.
Each turtle lays 80 to 120 eggs around 9 to 10 times a season, but blinding lights around the beaches are another death trap for these endangered animals. The tiny hatchlings – instead of following the moon to the sea – are confused by the beams of artificial light and end up dead in gutters, drains or against hotel walls.
Fishermen lay out their nets on the sand instead of reeling them up, and hatchlings are caught up in the ropes and dehydrate or suffocate to death.
This is the tragic plight of an endangered species, in serious decline and hurtling towards extinction. Leatherback turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as national laws, but poachers roam free on certain beaches in Tobago, and defy these laws.