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Video of turtle torture highlights common practice in Costa Rica

March 31, 2016

Me están enviando esta salvajada desde Moin!! Es muy fuerte!! Estos muchachos están contribuyendo muy negativamente a…

Posted by Álvaro Sagot Rodríguez on Monday, March 28, 2016

A video of young men merrily dragging a live sea turtle behind a car in Costa Rica went viral after well-known environmental lawyer Álvaro Sagot posted it to his Facebook page earlier this week.

The widespread outrage provoked by the shared video spurred a police investigation. Agents from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) determined that the video was several years old, but were still able to track down two suspects using the license plate number of the car in the video.

OIJ officials said in a statement that one of the suspects has received a citation and will be required to appear in court, while the second suspect is already in prison on drug trafficking charges.

Despite the outcry, dragging turtles behind cars is a common method of killing or torturing turtles in certain parts of Costa Rica. Green turtles, the species of turtle in the video, are sometimes killed for meat here.

The video’s surge on social media coincided with the close of the trial for the murder of sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora. Four sea turtle poachers were convicted of the 2013 murder, which, like the video, took place on Moín Beach.

Mora suffocated after being tied up and dragged through the sand, much the same way as turtles, like the one in the video, are sometimes dragged by poachers. Though judges and prosecutors disagree over whether Mora was dragged by a vehicle or by two people on foot, parallels between his murder and this manner of killing turtles were made several times during the trial.

“They killed him just as they would a turtle,” lead prosecutor Miguel Ramírez said during his closing arguments. “How fitting that they killed a man who dedicated his life to turtles in just the same way.”

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