Wildlife officials in Florida are investigating after a photo surfaced online of a woman riding a sea turtle.
Photos of the unidentified woman first appeared on Snapchat, and were later posted to Facebook after a concerned recipient took screenshots and shared them. The photos were reportedly taken at Melbourne Beach, though the time of the incident is unknown.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, another woman was also photographed riding the sea turtle and subsequently identified.
The FWC has been in contact with the identified woman, and are working to locate the other. Harassing a sea turtle is reportedly a felony offense.
“We are investigating it and we have made contact with one of the girls allegedly sitting on the turtle,” Florida FWC agent Lenny Salberg said. “We plan to interview her and depending on what she says — and who took the pictures — there could be charges.”
Sea Turtle Preservation Society chairman Dave Hochberg said that he understands people might not be familiar with state and federal laws regarding the protection of sea turtles.
“What I do not understand is, even if a person is ignorant of the laws, how could they possibly think that it is OK to just do that kind of thing to a wild animal?” he said. Hochberg stressed the importance, in light of the incident, of enforcing the laws that are in place protecting sea turtles.
“If they are not enforced I believe that it would send out a bad signal to some that even if they were to break these laws, they would not have to worry about paying any kind of penalty for their actions,” he said. “I believe that there should be some kind of action taken about this matter otherwise it would send that signal that the law has no teeth to it.”
Photo Credit: rare.us, floridatoday.com