Stephanie Marie Moore has been arrested after photos of her sitting or ‘riding’ on sea turtles spread across the Internet.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a criminal investigation when the photos first surfaced in July. The 20-year-old faces felony charges for “possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and harassment of marine turtles, nests or eggs”.
Melbourne, Florida is a 20-mile long beach that “is home to the most important sea turtle nesting habitat in the United States,” according to the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Almost 90 percent of all the sea turtles in the US live in this area. Their declining numbers have caused civic leaders to take tampering with the turtles as a serious offense.
“People can live and play on important sea turtle nesting beaches without significantly affecting nesting success,” said the Sea Turtle Conservancy. “But it requires a well-informed public that is committed to behaving in a manner that doesn’t harm nesting turtles or their nests.”
The Conservancy has done a superb job educating citizens about how to properly coexist with turtles. Perhaps this is the reason Stephanie’s photos went over so poorly.
The photos “flooded social media networks,” said Sgt. Brian Hart of Melbourne police. “Eventually, multiple complaints were forwarded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
Early on Saturday, Stephanie was apprehended by the Melbourne police. The officers were responding to a disturbance of the peace on Espanola Way. Only afterwards did they learn of the outstanding warrant for her arrest.
Stephanie is currently being held in Brevard County Jail on a $2000 bond.