January 16, 2006

El Salvador studies mystery deaths of rare turtles

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (Reuters) - More than 100 rare
sea turtles have washed up dead on Pacific beaches in El
Salvador this month, and scientists said on Monday they were
struggling for an explanation.

A total of 119 dead turtles have been found at different
points along El Salvador's coast since the start of the year.
The turtles belong to the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Green
turtle species.

"The final cause is still unknown," said Claudia Vega, a
veterinarian with the El Salvador Zoological Foundation.

The Environment Ministry is analyzing tests carried out on
an dying turtle last week and said it was too early to draw
final conclusions.

Environment Minister Hugo Barrera initially suggested the
animals had been killed by careless fishing boats, but other
officials have since suggested pollution or venomous algae
could be responsible.

Every year, millions of turtles swim to Pacific beaches in
Latin America, where they lay their eggs. Until recently, they
were frequently hunted for their meat, putting them at risk of

Scientists say intense conservation campaigns mean that
populations of Olive Ridley turtles are recovering in Mexico,
but all five species of sea turtle are considered endangered.