Murdered turtle worker was critical of police involvement

The death of Jairo Mora Sandoval has galvanized the environmental community and put law enforcement in an awkward spot.

Mora was the man who worked with turtles who was executedearly Friday morning. His battered body was not found until daylight Friday.

He worked with the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which also has turtle protection refugees in other parts of Costa Rica. And Mora was critical of the scarcity of police protection for the turtles.

In response the Fuerza Pública said that for the last month, police officers and members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas have been involved in a preventative operation to help turtles. The animals lay their eggs on the beaches, and locals frequently try to steal the eggs. Some police officers have been trained in relocating the turtle eggs and there are 55 officers assigned to guard the zone, officials said.

Volunteers working with the refugees frequently move the eggs to safe, guarded areas. Mora was on his way to a beach when he and four women companions were intercepted about 11:30 p.m. Thursday. One woman was a Spanish veterinarian. The other three were believed to be volunteers from the United States. They were unhurt.

The immediate conclusions of friends, volunteers and investigators is that the brutal murder had something to do with turtles or at least the beach which is frequented by drug smugglers.

Some police officers have been trained in relocating the turtle eggs and there are 55 officers assigned to guard the zone, officials said.

The murder has not been beneficial to Costa Rica’s international image. The news story has been picked up all over the world and most likely will have an effect on the recruitment of volunteers.

There is no doubt that Mora was singled out for murder. He was beaten and stripped before he was shot in the head, investigators said. Due to the brutality, the speculation has shifted from turtle egg thieves to  drug smugglers.

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