The matter was brought to light by the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE) group but the suspects apparently fled the scene when the police arrived.
South Carolina police have said that a sea turtle that made its way to the beach to nest was harassed by beachgoers. It is said that the police had to be called when the people started bothering the turtle by riding it when it was trying to lay eggs. Horry County Police (HCPD) responded to a call at 10:51 p.m. on July 12 to "a large group of people surrounding and sitting on a large sea turtle," reported WPDE. But the suspects apparently fled the scene when the police arrived. The matter was brought to light by the South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts (SCUTE) group on Facebook.
In the post, SCUTE wrote, "A Green sea turtle came ashore last night (10:30) at Garden City Pier where it was harassed, photographed and ridden. (Kid you not) 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. I wish these turtles would bite as they are capable of doing." Officers have classified this as animal cruelty and obtained the suspect's description. Terry Graham of SCUTE later confirmed that the turtle who went back to sea after being harassed came back three or four hours later and laid her eggs near a set of stairs on South Waccamaw Drive.
People Tried to Ride Endangered Sea Turtle Laying Eggs on a South Carolina Beach: Police https://t.co/SPU8CIxp2d— People (@people) July 19, 2021
The turtle had done a false crawl at Myrtle Beach State Park the night before as well. The rare green sea turtle came up by the pier and was the first documented in South Carolina. Garden City now officially has the first green sea turtle nest in South Carolina after the turtle is said to have laid 77 eggs that have been relocated safely as updated by the Garden City Surfside Sea Turtle Guardians group on Facebook. The group is also on the lookout for the people who were responsible for disrupting wildlife on the night of July 12. Any people who witnessed the incident or even have pictures are being encouraged to report it here.
A group member wrote a reminder stating: "Remember it’s turtle nesting season, please leave them alone, no flash photography or flashlights, fill in holes on the beach and put away your beach chairs." Beachgoers may take photos of the turtles, reported PEOPLE but there are a very specific set of guidelines to do so. The photographer should stand behind the turtle and quietly take the photos without using a flash. Additionally, beachgoers are also encouraged to alert park rangers about the nesting turtle. Green sea turtles are classified as endangered species by the state of South Carolina and the federal government.
There are strict laws in place to protect the endangered turtles and people who violate these federal laws by harming or interfering with sea turtles could face a fine of up to $25,000 and a year's imprisonment, as per Newsweek. Ann Wilson, a park ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park, noted that the turtle had been trying to find a place to nest earlier in the day but had been unsuccessful once again because there were too many people around. "People are so excited about sea turtles they forget that they are dealing with a wild animal who is terrified of them, Wilson stated. "It's frustrating and sad because it is not proper behavior for anybody."
Social media users shared their disappointment with how the group of people manhandled the poor animal. Catherine Dauphin Settle commented, That is just beyond the pale. People are so selfish and self-absorbed. Another person wrote: It’s a shame when people violate animals. Like what did that sweet turtle ever do to them! Makes me sick.