Since sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica began in the 1950s, conservationists and poachers have peacefully shared the beach. But the murder of the environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval in 2013 shocked the eco-friendly country and brought attention to a violent overlap between conservationism and drug trafficking in Costa Rica’s abundant national parks and untouched coastlines.
With five per cent of the world’s biodiversity, the unique geography of Costa Rica is a hotspot for eco-tourism and conservation work. However, it is that same geography that makes the country so vulnerable to the violent drug trade that surrounds its borders. Costa Rica has become a major transshipment point for drug traffickers, with deadly consequences for those caught in the middle.
VICE News travels to Costa Rica to commemorate the two-year anniversary of environmental activist Jairo Mora Sandoval’s tragic death and meet with conservationists, poachers, drug dealers, and law enforcement about the intersecting criminality across the country.