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A group of South Carolina beachgoers allegedly tried to ride an endangered green sea turtle as she was trying to lay eggs in the sand earlier this month.
Horry County police officers responded to Garden City beach during the evening hours of July 12 after receiving a report that "a large group of people surrounding and sitting on a large sea turtle,” according to a Horry County police report obtained by local outlet WPDE-TV. The department did not immediately respond to Oxygen.com's request for comment.
By the time that officers arrived at the beach, the suspects had fled the scene. While nobody has been arrested in relation to the incident, police have classified it as animal cruelty, according to the report.
The South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts group apparently witnessed the incident and they posted a statement about it a day after.
“A Green sea turtle came ashore last night(10:30) at Garden City Pier where it was harassed, photographed and riden.( Kid you not ),” they wrote. “The HCPD were called but the violators fled the scene. On a good note, once the drunks and delinquents left, it came back up to nest.”
In fact, the turtle came back that same night to lay 77 eggs, WBTW-TV reports. The nest is now under protection.
Green sea turtles are considered an endangered species by both the state of South Carolina and the federal government. The Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Turtle Protection Act states that "no person may take, possess, disturb, mutilate, destroy, cause to be destroyed, sell, offer for sale, transfer, molest or harass any marine sea turtle or its nests or eggs at any time."
Anyone who harms or disturbs endangered sea turtles or their nests are susceptible to pay fines of up to $25,000 and spend up to a year behind bars.
“I wish these turtles would bite as they are capable of doing,” S.C.U.T.E. added in the post.
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