Remember the cop who responded to a “vicious dog” call and ended up making a new best friend? Here’s another story of a very cool cop, who went out of his way to help some tiny turtle newborns.
Florida police officer Derek Conley, from Sarasota, saved nearly 100 baby sea turtles when he gathered the newly hatched creatures from a hotel parking lot and street, put them in a cardboard box (see above), and released them into the Gulf of Mexico.
Conley was on patrol at 1 a.m. on August 3, when he noticed a baby sea turtle crawling toward the front door of Sarasota’s Lido Beach Resort. A passerby told him that he’d seen more hatchlings in the parking lot.
When he checked up, he saw that there were dozens more turtles swarming toward the hotel. He grabbed a cardboard box, and with the help of some of the hotel’s guests, he gathered up the slow-moving creatures from the parking lot and surrounding streets, stopping the traffic a few times in the process.
Conley delivered the turtles back to the beach and across the water line, effectively saving their little lives.
Turtles have been in the news recently: it turns out that many of them are dying because they are chewing on discarded plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish.
These sea turtle hatchlings are much luckier, thanks to this caring man.
Conley spotted three dead turtles, according to a news release, but he estimates that 90-100 were saved.
All sea turtles are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and the Florida Marine Protection Act, and it is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their nests. However Conley checked with two marine rescue groups, who verified that these creatures were clearly in distress, and not helping them would have made their situation even worse.
Florida has five types of nesting sea turtles, and they nest along the beaches from May until late October. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the turtles make 40,000 to 84,000 nests in the state each year. All are protected under state statutes.
Adult females nest every two or three years and lay several nests in one season. They emerge from the water to nest on the beach mostly at night. Nests average 100 eggs, which incubate in the sand for about 60 days, depending on the species.
The hatchlings usually emerge from their nests at night. Only about 1 in 1,000 baby turtles survive to adulthood. Their lives are perilous, starting with the earliest stages, where simply moving from the sand into the water can be much more complicated than it appears.
Were the turtles deciding to check into the Lido Resort, maybe watch some TV or hang out at the bar? Probably not: according to biologists, hatchlings crawl towards the brightest light they see, which on an undeveloped beach is the moonlit ocean.
However, artificial light can disorient sea turtles and cause them to head in the wrong direction, which is presumably why the turtles Conley saved were headed toward the hotel.
Whatever the sea turtles’ reasons for heading to this beach resort, thanks to Officer Conley, they’re back in the water now, where they belong.
Photo Credit: Lido Beach Resort/via Facebook