Jairo Mora Sandoval (March 22, 1987 – May 31, 2013) was a Costa Rican environmentalist.
Sandoval was murdered while attempting to protect leatherback turtle nests. Just before midnight on May 30, 2013, Mora and four female volunteers were abducted by a group of masked men. The women eventually escaped and informed the police. Mora’s bound and beaten body was found on the beach the next morning. An autopsy determined he died by asphyxiation after suffering a blow to the head.
Sea turtles are protected by law in Costa Rica, but poaching remains common. Locals take eggs, which are believed to be an aphrodisiac, and sell them on the black market. The egg trade has been linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. Environmentalists working in Limón say they are often threatened for trying to protect turtle eggs. Jairo Mora was one such environmentalist working in the area.
In the wake of Mora’s death, the organization he worked with cancelled beach patrol efforts in Costa Rica. His death attracted international attention, including a statement from the United Nations and multiple rewards for information on the case. In Costa Rica, his death led to calls for reform of environmental policy. On June 4, the government met with environmentalists to discuss potential changes to policy. A plan submitted by environmentalists and endorsed by Environment Minister René Castro would set up a new protected area and grant park rangers more authority to stop poachers, among other changes. On June 5, vigils were held across Costa Rica in honor of Mora. On June 18, the government announced the allocation of $60,000 to memorialize Mora.