Latin America & Caribbean

Costa Rica poachers 'kill turtle activist'

'Tommy', a leatherback turtle at Sydney Aquarium.
Image caption Sea turtles have seen their numbers decline partly because of poaching

An environmentalist campaigning for the protection of endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica has been found dead in a suspected killing by smugglers.

Jairo Mora was reportedly found face down with his hands tied on Moin beach, 170km (105 miles) east of the capital, San Jose.

Vanessa Lizano, the owner of the turtle sanctuary where Mr Mora worked, said he had been killed because of his work.

Sea-turtle eggs are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

Ms Lizano told the BBC: "Jairo went on patrol with some volunteers and they were attacked by armed men.

"It was him they wanted, because he was the one who was always looking after the nests."

Ms Lizano said that poachers in Costa Rica can make up to $300 (£200) per day smuggling turtle eggs in the black market.

She said they had received many threats over the years because of their work at the sanctuary.

Image caption Sea turtle eggs are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world

Populations 'in decline'

Didihier Chacon, a spokesperson for the Widecast, a partner organisation which runs sea turtle conservation programmes in Central America, said he felt "very hurt" by Mr Mora's death.

"He could walk 20km each night to save nests," Mr Chacon told Efe news agency.

"It's not possible that citizens who protect nature have to suffer from this type of attacks."

The Costa Rican authorities said they were investigating the death.

According to Widecast's website, Central America once supported populations of sea turtles in their thousands, but they have been in decline, partly because of widespread poaching for their meat, eggs and shells.

In addition to national legislation in Costa Rica, sea turtles are protected under many international treaties.

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