The killing already has begun to scare away volunteers, many of whom are young Americans, according to Mora’s nonprofit employer. Some believe the slaying could even affect the Costa Rican economy, which depends heavily on eco-tourism. It has drawn reaction from the Costa Rican president and the U.S. Embassy and has prompted a meeting of interested organizations held by the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment on Tuesday.
The slaying also is seen as another sign that drug trafficking, once a small concern in Costa Rica, could be encroaching on a nation that prides itself on the many ways it is different from the rest of Central America.
“The work of protecting nesting beaches is basically done by nonprofit organizations and individuals who donate their time and resources to help. This entire conservation strategy is at risk,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Olema, Calif. “It’s critical that the whole world pays attention to this and assures that these murderers are brought to justice and there is a commitment from the government to protect individuals, the endangered species and the tourists who basically make the economy of Costa Rica work.”
Steiner’s organization and other conservation groups have pledged a $12,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Mora’s killers.
“We’ve never experienced anything remotely like this,” said David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Gainesville, Fla., the 54-year-old organization whose founder, Archie Carr, is considered the father of sea turtle protection efforts. “. . . We’re all still a little bit in shock and trying to figure out how best to respond.”
Mora and the four volunteers had finished their patrol of leatherback nesting sites on Moin beach about 3 a.m. Friday and were driving along a beachfront road when they came to a spot blocked by a downed palm tree, Cristina Volkart Obando, vice president of the board of directors of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (Widecast), said in a telephone interview from San Jose, Costa Rica. When Mora got out to move the tree, a group of masked, armed men grabbed him and the women and took them to an abandoned house, where the women were tied up and robbed of their money and cellphones.