Upsetting footage has emerged which shows locals on an Indonesian beach taking it in turns to ride on the back of an endangered leatherback turtle.
This cruel behaviour was captured on July 5, with the distressed turtle struggling to make its way back to the ocean.
You can watch the disturbing footage for yourself below:
As reported by a witness, residents captured the turtle after it had been laying eggs on Asukweri beach. This is despite guidelines advising residents to leave sea turtle mothers alone.
At one point, two men and a young child can be seen attempting to ride on the turtle’s back, with one of the men placing his feet on the animals head. A bit further on in the clip, a man can be seen standing on the turtle’s back flippers.
Eventually the turtle is released back into the ocean, having been put through harmful and unnecessary stress for the residents’ amusement.
Local authorities have yet to make a comment on this video, which has shocked animal lovers from all across the world.
Leatherback turtles are facing extinction, with a particularly steep population decline noted in the Pacific.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF):
[Leatherback turtles] are the largest sea turtle species and also one of the most migratory, crossing both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Pacific leatherbacks migrate from nesting beaches in the Coral Triangle all the way to the California coast to feed on the abundant jellyfish every summer and fall.
Although their distribution is wide, numbers of leatherback turtles have seriously declined during the last century as a result of intense egg collection and fisheries bycatch.
Globally, leatherback status according to IUCN is listed as Vulnerable, but many subpopulations (such as in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic) are Critically Endangered.
Weighing between 600 to 1500 pounds, and measuring around 55 to 63 inches in length, these turtles make for a fascinating sight. However, these vulnerable creatures need to be treated with care and respect, with this sort of thoughtless behaviour being completely inexcusable.
As reported by ProFauna, all sea turtles in Indonesia are protected by legislation, as well as by international law.
ProFauna have offered guidelines to those wishing to observe sea turtles on the beach, advising them to minimise noise, make slow movements and remain calm. ProFauna have also advised against approaching turtles which have just landed at the beach.
Find out more about what you can do to be a true friend to these beautiful turtles here.