Florida woman arrested after photo of her riding a sea turtle went viral

September 28th, 2015 by Staff

(www.washingtonpost.com)

Stephanie Moore appears blissful in the Snapchat screenshot.

The image allegedly shows her sitting astride a large sea turtle on the beach, her eyes closed and mouth pursed in coy triumph. Her arms are bent as if to mirror the flippers of the creature beneath her.

After this photo and others of another woman in a similar stance went viral this July — in the midst of a critical nesting season — complaints to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission prompted a criminal investigation. Moore, 20, was arrested early Saturday, the Melbourne, Fla. Police Department said in a post on Facebook.

She was apprehended after Melbourne officers encountered her while responding to a separate call about a disturbance. They identified her as one of the women in the photographs that had been shared widely on social media — ironic given Snapchat’s brand of “disappearing” photos.

Her ultimate fate may resemble that of Taylor Martin and Seth Stephenson, both 22, who were fined and handed community service hours last year after facing federal charges for abusing manatees in a video posted to Facebook.

“…my debue as tayla the manatee slaya,” Martin wrote in a comment on the post. “…ready to cannonball on every manatee living yew.”

The video shows him jumping off a boat dock onto two manatees, an adult and a calf, while Stephenson keeps them there with a water hose, the Tampa Tribune reported.

Sea turtles, a protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act, nest along the state’s east-central coastline, “the second most important nesting beach in the world,” according to the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy.

No wonder, then, that Floridians were incensed when the photos first surfaced this summer.

“I think it’s abusive. I think it’s criminal,” Melbourne resident Christine Crowe told News 13. “These are protected species. Take care of them, and if you’re not going to respect them, they need to suffer the consequences.”


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