San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Jairo Mora

On anniversary of conservationist Jairo Mora's murder, Moín Beach turtles have protection

UPDATE June 1 at 12:46: According to Sea Shepherd officials, the leader of the group’s Costa Rica operation arrived Saturday. The group is currently based in Pacuare, a beach north of Moín, but has plans to patrol Moín in the coming weeks. The group has been unable to secure permits to collect eggs on Moín and will simply be patrolling in an attempt to ward off poachers. 

Saturday night, on the two-year anniversary of her friend Jairo Mora’s murder, Vanessa Lizano could not stop smiling.

“I thought I would be sad, but I’m not, I’m excited,” she said.

It was the first time in more than a year that Lizano had gone out to Moín Beach on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, the site of the brutal 2013 murder of her 26-year-old friend Mora, who was killed on May 30, 2013 while protecting sea turtles from poachers. In January, the seven alleged poachers accused of his murder were acquitted.

Lizano was excited to be back at the beach with the turtles, but also invigorated by the changes she noted in Moín. For the first time since Mora’s murder, the turtles of Moín have protection.

A small crew from the Tropical Science Center (TSC) now patrols Moín Beach every week night, accompanied by police. The group has gathered more than 113 leatherback sea turtle nests, which are now safely contained within a guarded beach hatchery. In a recent patrol, the TSC was able to collect 13 nests in one night, saving more than 1,000 eggs from poachers. While turtle nests are still robbed nightly by poachers, the hatcheries now contain the highest number of eggs ever conserved on the beach.

“Knowing that they already have so many nests brings me such happiness,” said Lizano, who had patrolled the beach alongside Mora. “You can see things changing and hopefully it will stay this way.”

The TSC will be able to continue their patrols for at least two more years with funding promised from APM Terminals, the company currently constructing a billion-dollar port on Moín’s south end.

The TSC is not alone. Another group of conservationists that oppose the port, Operation Moín, also patrols the beach. With little funding, no scientific permits and sporadic security, the members of Operation Moín gather nests and transport them to a hatchery up the coast. Activist group Sea Shepherd has also promised to send volunteers to Moín Beach, but thus far have no presence on the beach.

Before patrolling the beach, Lizano and Didiher Chacón, the director of Latin American Sea Turtles (formerly Widecast), the organization Mora worked for at the time of his murder, lit candles and held a moment of silence for their slain colleague. After a few moments, the pair stuck their candles into the sand and set off in search of turtles.

“It’s sad he’s not here,” Chacón said of Mora, “but if you knew Jairo you knew that he loved these things and this is the best way to do something in his honor.”

Lizano and Chacón were able to save one nest last night.

Check out Vanessa Lizano’s new rescue center here

Read all of The Tico Times’ coverage of the Jairo Mora murder case here

Contact Lindsay Fendt at lfendt@ticotimes.net

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