A 41-year-old woman was arrested by Miami Beach police on Saturday in the attack of a sea turtle nest with a wooden stake.
According to police, officers and eye witnesses saw Yaqun Lu “jabbing at the sea turtle nest and stomping all over the nest with her bare feet,” the Miami Herald reported. The Michigan resident was discovered inside a fenced-off area that was cordoned to protect hatchlings; yellow tape, sticks and a “Do Not Disturb” sign warned the public to stay away.
Lu is facing felony charges for violating Florida law and the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, which makes it a crime to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings.
Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission inspected the nest and determined the eggs were not harmed by Lu, according to the TV station WPLG.
Each spring, 70 percent of the nation’s sea turtle nesting — including loggerhead, green and leatherback marine turtles — takes place in Florida. During the nesting season, which occurs between March and October, thousands of female turtles lay eggs in self-dug holes, then they cover the eggs with sand to shield them from predators.
Nearly two months later, the hatchlings scurry to the sea, guided by moonlight and its reflection; 1 in 1,000 turtles make it to adulthood, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
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Lu, a Chinese citizen, was charged with molesting or harassing marine turtles or their eggs, and she could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the third-degree felony. Since Saturday, she has been held on a $5,000 bond.
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