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Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings stolen from North Carolina beach

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baby loggerhead sea turtleWho stole 83 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings from their nest on Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina? A $5,000 reward has been posted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the turtle-napper(s).

Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are protected as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, as well as under North Carolina state law. Anyone caught killing or stealing the turtles faces up to a $100,000 fine and a year in prison.

Volunteers helping to monitor loggerhead nests discovered the theft on Aug. 6. Sea turtle coordinator Gloria Hillenburg told local news station WECT that the hatchlings, which were dug up from their underground nest, are too young to survive on their own. "They were hatching underneath the nest, and whoever it was went and dug a hole and took the babies," Hillenburg told North Carolina’s Star News.

In addition to the pilfered hatchlings, 38 eggs were stolen from another nest earlier this year, the first egg theft on the island in 20 years. The remaining 19 nests on the island have not been disturbed, and volunteers now plan 24-hour surveillance to prevent further tampering.

The motive for the turtle thefts remains unclear. Sea turtle eggs have a market value both as souvenirs and an aphrodisiac, but less demand exists for live sea turtles, especially ones so young.

Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service this week issued a report finding that loggerhead sea turtle populations in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans face extinction as seven of nine populations have experienced significant declines, and all nine populations "have the potential to decline in the future." Loggerheads’ greatest threats, according to the report, include longline fishing, marine debris and ship strikes.

Image: Loggerhead sea turtle baby, via Wikipedia

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  1. 1. hotblack 12:40 pm 08/15/2009

    Atrocious. Someone needs a shovel to the skull.

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  2. 2. Rustydobe 5:28 pm 08/21/2009

    Yes, it IS atrocious!!!! I liove on Ocean Isle and am a member of the Turtle Patrol under Ms. Hillenberg. She works tirelessly to ensure our turtles get safely out to sea. This person destroyed those babies!

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  3. 3. Rustydobe 5:30 pm 08/21/2009

    Yes it IS atrocioua! I am a member of the Ocean Isle Turtle Patrol and we were just heartsick at this news! Gloria Hillenberg, the "Turtle Lady" works tirelessly on our beach educating folks and ensuring all our hatchlings make it safely to the sea.

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  4. 4. Barb Utz 9:30 pm 08/22/2009

    The "TURTLELADY" is so protective of her babies – she is the most caring -sincere individual I have ever met. Gloria "The TURTLELADY" is a childhood friend of mine – a great person – I love her dearly.

    Barb Utz
    Manchester MD

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  5. 5. Barb Utz 9:39 pm 08/22/2009

    It is so sad that someone would destroy these babies – I have had the hatchlings on the top of my feet – fighting to get to the ocean as the waves break and bring them back and take them out again – I hope they find the person or persons responsible for this – I’m sure "The TURTLELADY" will find the culprits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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