The sight of two suffocating turtles, on their backs with fins tied up, horrified tourists on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. Thanks to their quick thinking, the animals were returned safely to sea.
A video posted on YouTube Monday shows tourists rescuing two loggerhead turtles, each weighing about 250 pounds. Chris Skone-Roberts, a professional rescue diver and former paramedic, first spotted the reptiles. When he tried to douse them with water, a woman angrily pulled him off—claiming they were hers. It’s presumed that once the turtles suffocated to death, she would have sold their meat on the black market.
Skone-Roberts alerted the police and then rallied a group of divers and other tourists to help the animals. They poured buckets of water over them for about 30 minutes to revive them. On regaining consciousness, they were transferred to wooden carts and wheeled to the sea.
“Sometimes, you are faced with a situation so outrageous that you have no other choice than to intervene and right a wrong,” said Skone-Roberts, according to Western Daily Press. “These poor creatures are endangered enough, but to leave them to die like this was inhumane, so we had to act.”
Members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society came to the site and helped the turtles swim away.
“We left them on their backs to stop them from struggling and tearing their fins apart,” said Skone-Roberts. “Once we cut the ties, they went off like the clappers. It was wonderful to see.”
Loggerhead turtles have been listed as a threatened species since 1978. The Sea Turtle Conservancy estimates that only 40,000 to 50,000 nesting females exist in the world because of habitat loss and hunting.
More than 35,000 sea turtles—mostly green sea turtles—are hunted for their meat and eggs every year in Nicaragua. The animals’ meat is some of the cheapest available protein in that country. Locals also report that catching and selling turtles is the fastest way to feed their families.