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Poaching, Drugs, and Murder in Costa Rica: Shell Game (Part 1)

Although sea turtle poaching is illegal in Costa Rica, an unwritten law governs egg gathering on the beach for conservationists and poachers alike: finder's keepers.

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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 percent 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.

In part one of our three-part series, VICE News joins conservationists, poachers, and law enforcement in their struggle to maintain the unwritten law that governs egg gathering on the beach: finder's keepers.

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