Sea turtle biologist murdered in Costa Rica

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July-August 2013:

Jairo  Mora Sandoval,  26,  was killed early on May 31,  2013 by suspected sea turtle egg poachers on Moin Beach,  near Limon, Costa Rica.  

A sea turtle biologist,  Sandoval on April 23,  2013 posted to Facebook “Can you send messages to the police so they come to Moin Beach. Don’t be afraid, but just come armed. 60 turtles lost, not a single nest.  We need help fast.”  On April 28,  Mora told the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación that activists trying to protect sea turtle nests had been threatened “by a mafia that is looting the nests for eggs.”  

Moira linked the egg poachers to drug trafficking. Affirmed Didhier Chacon,  director of the environmental organization Widecast, “There are several drug dealers,  who are known to authorities,  who need the beach totally deserted,”  in order to land cargoes of smuggled drugs. 

“If a guard or policeman says he supports us,”  Mora told a La Nación reporter who accompanied him on patrol on May 5,  “he is lying.” No police were on the beach that night,  but Limón police and the Coast Guard reportedly began patrolling the beach after more sea turtle nests were raided on May 6.  

On the night of his murder Mora spoke with the police by radio about an hour before he and four female volunteers,  three from the U.S. and one from Spain,  were ambushed by at least five masked gunmen.  The ambush occurred when Mora stopped his vehicle to move a fallen tree from the road.  

The women were robbed of their cell phones,  money, and other belongings,  and held at a nearby abandoned house.  Two of the men drove away with Mora,  leaving the others to guard the women.  When the guards left,  the women called the police.  Mora was found the next morning,  stripped,  beaten,  and shot in the head with his hands tied behind his back.  

Sea Turtle Conservation Network executive director Todd Steiner posted a reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers,  but six weeks later no arrests had been made.

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