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Posted on: October 21, 2019 at 4:42 pm
Last updated: October 21, 2019 at 6:58 pm

On Sunday, September 1, 2019, numerous baby sea turtles were found gruesomely burnt to death at the Hightower Beach in Melbourne, Florida [1]. They were discovered by Rhonda Wundke and her husband who were walking the shores of the beach that day. They noticed a black, charred lump in the sand, and there were more like it several yards away. Some of them had either been broken up by wind or feet, but many of the clumps still had the shapes of tiny baby turtles. Turtles who were no more than a week old, all burnt to death in what Rhonda described as a “nightmare”.

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Over 30 incredible species of turtles make their homes in the sunny state of Florida, and while a few go about their activities on land, the others are mostly aquatic. Nearly all the species are either threatened or critically endangered and are protected under the Marine Turtle Protection Act in Florida. The Act partly states that “Florida Statutes restrict the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and harassment of marine turtles, nests or eggs.  Protection is also afforded to marine turtle habitat.” To harm a turtle is a serious crime against the law.

“I found one dead turtle, then we came upon the burnt grave. Then there were just many more burnt, dead turtles here and there.. the charred wood was around them,” Rhonda wrote on Twitter. “Burnt babies everywhere.” 

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Authorities are currently carrying out an investigation

The perpetrators of the crime will hopefully be brought to justice. In another Twitter post, Rhonda tagged the Melbourne Police Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The latter has already launched an investigation into the cruel incident.The perpetrators of the crime will hopefully be brought to justice.

“I want to report a crime,” Rhonda wrote. “These baby turtles were found at High Tower Beach today 9/1/19. They have been set in fire. Baby turtles and over there place burned even found an egg. I’m saddened and very angry!”

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Keeping baby turtles safe

Florida is not only home to dozens of sea turtle species, but the sandy beaches are special birthing grounds for the mothers in an ancient ritual called nesting. About 90% of the turtles in the United States swim to Florida’s beaches to nest in the summer [2]. Turtles are a huge attraction in the state and are therefore protected under the law. 

Tourists are usually taken to beach spots where nesting mothers are preparing to lay their eggs. The mothers swim to the shores and rise out of the sea in all their beauty, searching for safe, hidden spots to lay their babies. With their hind flippers, they dig holes one or two feet deep in the sand and lay their fragile, soft-shelled eggs. Then they cover the holes with sand and head back into the sea.

With some of the more vulnerable and critically endangered species such as the leatherbacks and green turtles, tourists are not allowed to watch them nest. Human presence may terrify them and disrupt the repopulation process.

Locals and tourists are implored to make the nesting process easier for the turtles. Clearing out beach furniture, reducing marine debris on the shores, filling in holes, and dimming beach lights will make it easier for the mothers to locate safe spots to lay their eggs.

Want to learn how to help Florida turtles? Visit Save-a-turtle.org

  1. https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida/2019/09/05/baby-sea-turtles-found-burned-on-florida-beach/
  2. Johnny Diaz. Sea turtle nesting season is back on our beaches. Here’s what you need to know. Sun-Sentinel. https://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/spring-guide/fl-ne-cb-sea-turtle-nesting-season-tips-to-know-20190301-story.html. Retrieved 18-10-19
  3. Admin. Marine Turtle Protection. FWC. https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/sea-turtle/protection/. Retrieved 18-10-19
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