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Turtle heroes honoured

By Kim Boodram

Fearless. Tireless. Determined.

These are just some of the words that supporters of the Grande Riviere Environmental Group have come to associate with the small but fierce band of residents who have, over the past 20 years, helped hundreds of thousands of sea turtle hatchlings into the sea from their nests.

It will receive the Express Community Group of the Year award which goes to the community group or organisation which has made the most significant contribution in 2012 to community development.

Led by Sherwin Reyz of Grande Riviere, the group works every day and night during the April to September nesting season, patrolling the beach at night to protect laying turtles and their precious offspring.

Grande Riviere is one of the world's most intensive nesting sites for critically endangered sea turtles, including the leatherback.

The beach made headlines around the world in July this year when remedial works to control severe erosion caused by the meandering Grande Riviere River destroyed hundreds of nests, including eggs and hatchlings.

Reyz and group members including Junior White, worked around the clock from the start of the destruction and rescued hundreds of hatchlings from the excavators, often putting themselves in the path of the machines to do so.

Though vilified by some for their condemnation of earthworks being conducted on the part of the beach during nesting season, the group persevered and stood by its statements.

Reyz told the Express that his goal is to save one million sea turtles. This year, he crossed 700,000.

"I will, until the day I die, try my best to make a difference for these animals," Reyz said in a September, 2012 interview.

He could not be reached yesterday for comment on receiving the Express Community Group of the Year award but long-time supporter, Piero Guerrini, said the group deserves more recognition.

"I consider Sherwin Reyz to be the real and true defender of turtles in Grande Riviere," said Guerrini, owner of the internationally-known Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel, situated on the beach.

The pair met 20 years ago when Guerrini moved to Grande Riviere and became fast friends when they discovered a mutual love for the marine reptiles. Guerrini became a supporter of the then-fledgling group, offering his time, money and any other resources he could to support them.

"After 20 years and all kinds of opposition, Sherwin has remained strong and unwavering in his determination to protect these animals. I believe, completely, that he will reach his goal of saving one million turtles," Guerrini said.

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