A woman was arrested in Miami Beach, Florida, on Saturday after she was seen “jabbing” at a protected sea turtle nest with a wooden stake and “stomping all over” it with her bare feet, according to police.
Yaqun Lu, a 41-year-old Chinese national, was reportedly seen committing the offense by bystanders and police officers. She’d allegedly entered a protected area of the beach and had ― despite a “Do Not Disturb” warning ― prodded at and stepped on a sea turtle nest she found there.
“Thankfully, it appears the eggs were not damaged,” Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told the Miami Herald.
As the paper noted, it’s illegal under Florida law to harm or harass sea turtles ― which are federally protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act ― or their nests and hatchlings.
Miami Beach, the Herald said, is the nesting habitat for three species of protected sea turtles: the Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback.
Their nesting season runs from around April through early November, according to a website run by the city.
“It is important not to disturb [sea turtle] hatchlings, eggs or nests since hatchlings need to crawl to the sea unimpeded,” the website said. “Touching nesting females, taking flash pictures of nesting females or hatchlings, or digging into nests is prohibited by law.”
Lu, who provided police with a Michigan address, is facing a felony charge of harassing marine turtles or eggs. She’s reportedly being held on a $5,000 bond and is being represented by a public defender.