Loggerhead sea turtle nests poached on Folly Beach

Loggerhead sea turtle nests poached on Folly Beach
Published: Jul. 17, 2012 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2012 at 1:15 AM EDT
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FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - As the heat continues to scorch everything above the surface on Folly Beach, beneath the sand thousands of loggerhead sea turtle eggs are incubating. But according to a volunteer group, those eggs are in danger after two entire nests were poached.

Along the seven mile stretch of Folly Beach there are currently 58 loggerhead nesting holes.

Shannon Teders, a biologist and co-leader of the Folly Turtle Watch Program, says the number should actually be 60.

"It's awful," said Teders. "We were all devastated a nest was taken."

Teders says the first batch of over 100 eggs went missing early last month.

"I got the call in the morning and came out and I was shocked," she said. "I couldn't believe it, it had never happened before. I never thought it could happen here."

Before the loss of so many eggs could sink in, Teders says it happened again.

"We started to panic," said the biologist, after the news of the second missing nest reached her.

"This nest in particular there were 105 eggs taken," said Teders, pointed to a hole in the dunes were a nest once was. "It really looked to me like someone had taken a shovel to the nest and taken the eggs. I was shocked but it was pretty obvious then what the case was and there were human footprints around the area."

Teders has her theories like the eggs being stolen to be sold on the black market for money or even being eaten by people who have a taste for turtle.

What she knows for certain is the threatened species is extremely important to protect.

"It's bad for the population," said Teders. "These animals are threatened for a reason. It's getting harder and harder for them to find nesting habitat with human encroachment on the beach. If the people are educated and keep an eye out and try to prevent things from happening like this again that's a great thing."

The Department of Natural Resources says loggerheads are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and are protected by federal and state laws.

Their website states, "the loggerhead nesting population in the southeastern United States is continuing to decline and it has been recommended that this species be reclassified from threatened to endangered."

The maximum federal fine for harming a threatened species is $25,000. Teders says just messing with nests and disturbing their environment could be enough for law enforcement to write a fine for $1,000.

Folly Beach and most other coastal communities in Charleston County have lighting ordinances from May until October to protect sea turtles.

The Folly Beach turtle watch is offering a reward of $100 for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved with the poaching of turtle nests on the beach.

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