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Officials will designate Costa Rican beach where conservationist was murdered as a protected wildlife area

Officials from Costa Rica’s Environment Ministry (MINAE) held a meeting Wednesday to further an action plan in the wake of turtle conservationist Jairo Mora’s murder in late May.

The 26-year-old Mora was monitoring turtle nests for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST) on Moín Beach the night of May 30 when he was captured, tortured and killed by five masked assailants. Four foreign volunteers were also briefly kidnapped, but escaped unharmed.

In the weeks since the murder no suspects have been announced and no arrests have been made.

“First of all, we want to say that the investigation is advancing significantly,” Environment Minister René Castro said after the meeting. “We are missing some details, but it is advancing. We have every reason to be optimistic that we will solve this crime.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Castro and Vice Minister of Waters and Oceans José Lino Chávez met with members of Mora’s family and the heads of several environmental groups behind closed doors. The small contingent began hammering out details of ideas pitched at MINAE’s open meeting with members of the press and environmentalists two weeks ago.

Though still in a preliminary stage, Castro said the government would allocate ₡20 million ($40,000) for a monument in Mora’s honor, although details of the monument have not been decided. Options include a turtle observation area or an online tribute with video of nesting sea turtles, Castro said.

He also affirmed the ministry’s intention of converting Moín Beach, on the northern Caribbean coast near the port of Limón, into a protected area. The ministry has abandoned an original plan proposed by WIDECAST to name the park after Mora, following a request from Mora’s family.

MINAE also promised to beef up security along the country’s coasts by allocating “specialized units” to protected coastal areas.

“We are talking about boat captains or people who work at marinas,” Castro said. “We are looking for people who are equipped to take on this responsibility.”

According to Castro, the units would be trained specifically to deal with coastal threats and would be armed with equipment donated from Japan. Pilot programs for these units will be conducted in Moín and either Bahía Bellena or San Lucas on the Pacific coast, he said.

MINAE will hold another open meeting next week to discuss the details of the Moín protected area originally proposed by WIDECAST at the last meeting earlier this month.

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