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Tuesday 26 March 2019
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LONG CRAWL TO FREEDOM

Steve Seepersad and Hayden Simmon of the Forestry Division carry the turtle from the Customs and Excise Division building in Cedros down to the seaside to be freed yesterday. PHOTO BY STACY MOORE
Steve Seepersad and Hayden Simmon of the Forestry Division carry the turtle from the Customs and Excise Division building in Cedros down to the seaside to be freed yesterday. PHOTO BY STACY MOORE

A CHELONIA Mydas, commonly known as a green sea turtle, had an extraordinary journey from being grabbed and forced into a crocus bag, to being rescued on Monday, taken to court as evidence in a case against four men and finally, yesterday, taken to a beach in Cedros where it crawled into the sea and swam off.

Newsday accompanied the endangered turtle from the Point Fortin magistrates’ court to the beach.

The case was heard before senior magistrate Rajendra Rambachan. The charge read to Gregory David, 56, Owen Vialva, 47, Philip Phagoo, 26, and Michael Joseph, 38, alleged that they had an environmentally sensitive species at L’ envieuesse Gardens in Cedros.

They were charged indictably under Section 70 of the Environmental Management Act and were not called upon to plead.

The turtle was in the care of a team of game wardens including Andy Singh, Jeremy Dindial, Bisham Madhu and Hayden Simmons.

The accused were represented by attorney Kristoff Rambert who, in asking for bail, said his clients had no previous convictions.

He said Phagoo’s father was a policeman. Joseph, he said, is the father of a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old.

David, he said, works as a supervisor at the Point Fortin borough corporation, and Vialva is a fisherman.

The men were each granted $50,000 bail or a cash alternative of $15,000. The charge carries a maximum fine of $100,000 and two years in jail.

Prosecutor Sgt Jessie Jitmansingh told the court that he had no objections to bail. The magistrate inquired from the prosecutor what was going to happen to the turtle after it was taken away from the court. Rambachan was told the turtle, which was photographed, will be released back into to the sea.

The animal was carefully placed in a holding cage and into a van and taken to Cedros. The game wardens took it out, placed it on the sand and, after a little coaxing, watched as it took its first steps into the water and disappeared shortly after as the proud rescuers looked on. The case was adjourned to March 11.

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