Haven for leatherback sea turtles declared off-limits

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Costa Rica
Project Photo
Photo: Baby leatherbacks emerge in sand. Credit: Suzanne Livingstone.

In two separate rulings in May 2008, the Costa Rican government stood up for endangered leatherback sea turtles against business interests intent on building within their protected habitat.

A relative of dinosaurs, the endangered leatherback sea turtle has continually found its home in Costa Rica under threat. Poor planning and lack of oversight destroyed its nesting beaches in Flamingo and Tamarindo. 

This time developers had their eye on the Leatherback National Marine Park (LNMP), home to some of the most important Leatherback nesting beaches in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. 

A municipal zoning regulation was enacted that would authorize construction in part of the LNMP. However, AIDA and its local partner CEDARENA, together with the Leatherback Trust, successfully defended the park.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Costa Rican Supreme Court nullified the municipal zoning regulation, safeguarding the Leatherback sea turtles and their nesting beaches. This ruling closely followed another court victory by AIDA, CEDARENA, and Justice for Nature that required the government to expropriate the private lands within the LNMP, otherwise destined to be tourist playgrounds.

The leatherback sea turtle will continue to face threats from tourism development, fishing, egg poaching, and pollution. However, AIDA and its partners have shown that the law can be used to make a powerful difference.

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Finalized