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Mexico’s environmental protection agency is investigating stingray mutilation in Sonora

Environmental officials say leaders in a Sonoran coastal town could face criminal charges after removing the spines from stingrays to protect beachgoers.

Mexico’s environmental protection prosecutor (PROFEPA) is investigating the Sonoran town of Huatabampo after its employees tore spines from as many as 2,000 stingrays.

The city’s ecology coordinator — who has been fired — allegedly implemented the plan to prevent visitors during the busy Easter holidays from being stung. But videos of the stringrays' spines being ripped out by hand caused national outcry.

"What world do they live in," said Sonoran Gov. Alfonso Durazo, in response to the incident, which he called "barbaric" and "caveman-like." He said it mars the reputation of a state that has been working to for years to promote the well-being of animals and the environment.

Federal officials say they inspected the beach in Huatabampo after complaints and found dozens of stingrays dead on the beach with their spines removed. However, the of those deaths cause is still unknown. Officials are still deciding whether to press criminal charges in the case.

Kendal Blust, an Arizona native, reports from KJZZ’s bureau in Hermosillo, Sonora, focusing on business and economic relationships between Arizona and northern Mexico.Prior to joining KJZZ, Kendal worked at the Nogales International, reporting on border and immigration issues, local government, education and business. While working on her master’s degree at University of Arizona School of Journalism, she did stints with the Arizona Daily Star and the Tico Times in Costa Rica, and completed a thesis project about women art activists in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands.In her pre-journalist life, Kendal was a teacher, first helping Spanish high school students learn English, then heading to Tucson to teach fourth grade.When she’s not in the newsroom, Kendal enjoys getting outside for a hike or a swim, catching a good movie, hanging out with family and friends, and eating great food.