Police officers are sworn to serve and protect the members of their community. For some cops, this extends even to the non-human residents under their watch. As he was patrolling the Lido Beach Resort in South Florida on Saturday August, 3 around 1 am, Officer Derek Conley spotted a group of baby sea turtles clustered around the hotel’s front door. A passerby told him that there were more of the obviously confused hatchlings in the parking lot. After calling the area’s two marine rescue groups, Conley—along with several guests—collected almost 100 babies into a box, and led them to the ocean. He even stopped traffic on several occasions to chauffeur his shelled charges into their rightful home in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
In Florida, sea turtles nest from the beginning of May to the end of October. All five types of nesting species are protected under state law with the loggerhead listed as threatened and the green and leatherback cited as endangered. Each year, the turtles make an estimated 40,000 to 84,000 nests. While this may sound like a large figure, only one in 1,000 baby turtles ever make it to adulthood. After emerging from their nests at night, baby sea turtles tend to move towards the brightest source of light. Man-made infrastructure can confuse them and is the likely reason why the babies were loitering in the resort parking lot.
Florida is home to many organizations and centers that assist in sea turtle rescue. If you come across a mother turtle on the beach, the Sea Turtle Conservancy suggests turning off all flashlights and light-emitting devices, and staying clear from the sight of the animal once it begins to lay eggs. Do not handle the eggs or the turtle as you might damage the eggs and incur a hefty fine. After around 60 days when the tiny turtles emerge, they are at a great risk of predation. Let the turtles go along their route to the ocean, and ask marine specialists what to do if they appear to be in danger. Luckily, this clutch Officer Conley to shepherd them safely into the sea and give them a fighting chance at survival.
Images via Wikicommons users Hila Shaked and Brian Bill, US Fish and Wildlife Service.