Little has changed 1 year after slaying of Costa Rica conservationist Jairo Mora

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Lindsey Fendt, who has written extensively on the death of Jairo Mora, offers an update on the case. It is an extensive and richly illustrated article. Here’s an excerpt, with a link to the full text below.

It was February, and leatherback sea turtles had just starting arriving to nest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast when Marielos Morice and I made our drive down the uneven dirt path along Moín Beach.

When the road turned to sand, Morice looked up and yelled for me to stop.

“This is the place,” she said. “This is where they killed him.”

We stepped out of the car and Morice walked me to the spot where police found the body of 26-year-old sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora in the early morning of May 31, 2013.

I had expected a memorial or an altar or at least the stencil of Mora’s face that had become ubiquitous graffiti in San José. But nearly a year later, nothing about the patch of beach told the story of Mora’s death or the chain of events that landed seven men on trial for his murder.

The slaying was the culmination of a bitter feud between the beach’s turtle protectors and local egg poachers. It started nine years ago with Morice’s daughter, Vanessa Lizano, when she began leaving her family’s wildlife sanctuary at night to rescue turtle eggs.

Mora, a sea turtle specialist, came to Moín in 2011 to monitor the leatherback’s nesting patterns. He started working with Lizano to protect the beach’s eggs from poachers, and the poachers began to get violent. They delivered death threats to Mora and Lizano and robbed a group of volunteers at gunpoint. When that didn’t work, they captured Mora on the beach one night, beat him, dragged him behind a car and left him to suffocate in the sand.

The bloodshed on Moín drew attention from all over the world, and in Costa Rica the man who had been an unknown activist in life became a symbol in death.

Mora’s dramatic story spread quickly among activists and the media, and it seemed everybody wanted to pick up where Mora left off helping the turtles. But somehow, that never happened. Promises that government agencies and nongovernmental organizations made on television and in Facebook posts didn’t seem to put many boots on the sand in Moín. Now, those closest to Mora have retreated from the spotlight and from the burden of carrying out his difficult legacy.

Tonight when supporters gather for a candlelight vigil in honor of the one-year anniversary of Mora’s death, they will do so on a beach run mostly by poachers, not conservationists. And as for the turtles, they are worse off now than they were on the night Mora died trying to protect them.

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Little has changed 1 year after slaying of Costa Rica conservationist Jairo Mora

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