Florida woman charged with felony for allegedly riding sea turtle – Reuters


Sept 26 A 20-year-old Florida woman was arrested
on Saturday on suspicion of riding a sea turtle on the beach in
photos that went viral on social media in early July, police
said.

Stephanie Moore, of Melbourne, faces a felony charge of
possessing, selling, or molesting a marine turtle or eggs nest,
a violation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission rules, according to a statement by the Melbourne
Police Department.

She was booked into the Brevard County Jail at around 7 a.m.
and remained there on Saturday afternoon in lieu of a $2,000
bond, according to jail records.

Moore was one of two young women whose photos showed up on
Facebook in early July, in which they appeared to be riding a
turtle on the beach, police said.

“These pictures flooded social media networks and eventually
multiple complaints were forwarded to the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission, who handled the criminal
investigation,” the statement said.

The second woman has been identified by authorities but has
not been arrested, said David Hochberg, chairman of the board of
the Florida-based nonprofit Sea Turtle Preservation Society.

Moore was arrested early on Saturday after police responded
to a call about a disturbance at a home in Melbourne, the
statement said.

When police arrived, they encountered Moore and found out
she had a felony warrant related to the turtle incident, the
statement said.

The state wildlife commission protects the state’s five
species of marine turtles, which officials say are vulnerable
due to illegal harvesting, habitat encroachment, and pollution.

“Sea turtles, which are among the oldest creatures on earth,
have remained essentially unchanged for 110 million years,” the
commission’s website reads. “However, they face an uncertain
future.”

Four of the five species are considered endangered, and the
loggerhead turtle featured in the photographs is listed as
threatened, Hochberg said.

On Saturday, the society posted news of the arrest on its
Facebook page, a post that had been shared nearly 600 times by
early afternoon.

Hochberg said he was glad to see authorities enforcing the
laws and hoped Moore would get a punishment that would “sting a
bit” and perhaps inspire her to advocate for the turtles.

“I do hope that there are some kind of penalties levied
against her to where she realizes that what she did was not only
stupid but wrong,” Hochberg said.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Sandra
Maler)

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