Tourists punished after Snapchat video showed them smashing sea turtle eggs in South Carolina

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In this file photo, a tagged sea turtle nest is shown in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo / Wilfredo Lee)

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCBD– Three men face punishment after posting a video on Snapchat of them digging up a loggerhead turtle nest during a summer visit to Folly Beach, South Carolina.

Sea turtle nests in the area are usually clearly marked with orange tape to protect the eggs, which are extremely fragile. Almost all species of sea turtles are considered threatened with extinction as of 2020, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say loggerheads are endangered in northern and southern population segments along the Atlantic Ocean.

Protecting sea turtle nests is an essential part of the conservation program, as female sea turtles do not lay eggs every year. In addition, many newborns can be lost during the journey from the nest to the ocean.

According to the SCDNR, the men in the video were all under the age of 21 and were vacationing in the area with their families. The video showed two of the men digging up eggs from the nest and crushing an egg on the ground before attempting to re-bury the eggs.

The disturbance caused significant damage to the eggs. The SCDNR’s marine turtle conservation program determined that “out of 90 eggs remaining in the nest, 71 failed to hatch.”

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said on Wednesday that the two men who unearthed the eggs each received two summons for illegal harvesting of loggerhead turtle eggs, while the man who filmed them received a summons.

The men could face jail time or fines of up to $ 2,000 as well as restitution. The SCDNR also recommends that men be required to do community service as part of the agency’s sea turtle conservation program.

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