Costa Rica Prosecutor's Office says it has suspects in turtle conservationist murder

The Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday said they have identified suspects in the May 30 murder of turtle conservationist Jairo Mora, 26, but no arrests have been made.

Almost two weeks have passed since masked assailants kidnapped and murdered Mora on Moín Beach in the Caribbean province of Limón. On Wednesday, the Ocean Futures Society, founded by famous environmentalist and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, joined the long list of environmental groups urging the Costa Rican government for justice.

“This crime, in the Limón province, has shaken the consciousnesses of many internationally, more than anything because it occurred in a place like Costa Rica,” wrote Ruben Arvizú, the society’s Latin American director, in a letter addressed to Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

The Ocean Futures Society and several other groups are outraged over Mora’s slaying and the seemingly slow response by law enforcement. Mora was intercepted along with four foreign volunteers on the beach while protecting nesting leatherback turtles and their eggs. The volunteers – three from the U.S. and one from Spain, all women – were left in an abandoned house, while Mora was stripped naked, beaten and left to suffocate outside in the sand.

Arvizú asked the Chinchilla administration to make solving Mora’s case a national priority, referencing a petition calling for justice started by the Sea Turtle Restoration Program. At the time of publication the petition had over 11,000 signatures.

The organization Mora worked with, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST), shut down their Moín Beach operations after the murder, and according to WIDECAST’s Costa Rica Director Didiher Chacón, volunteer dropouts following the murder have left the organization short by more than 200 volunteers. Other organizations fear that failure to catch Mora’s killers could affect volunteer-run conservation programs throughout the country.

“The perpetrators of this heinous crime need to be brought to justice and they need to be brought to justice quickly,” said Todd Steiner, a biologist and director of SeaTurtles.org, an NGO that has volunteer programs throughout the country. “We are concerned that if that doesn’t happen that it really threatens the ecology of all of Costa Rica.”

There is now a $56,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Mora’s killers.