Poachers caught butchering green sea turtles, hiding meat in sand, Texas officials say

Texas game wardens caught poachers killing and “filleting” green sea turtles — then hiding the meat in sand dunes, officials say.

A recent tip about people catching and butchering Atlantic green sea turtles on South Padre Island started an investigation by wildlife authorities, according to Operation Game Thief, a nonprofit crime stoppers program created by Texas lawmakers.

Texas Game Wardens found two sea turtle shells in the suspects’ vehicle, according to a Facebook post. The suspects had hidden the turtle meat in plastic bags buried in the sand dunes, according to Operation Game Thief.

The meat appeared to belong to two sea turtles and included “two sets of turtle hind and fore flippers,” according to Operation Game Thief.

A graphic picture posted by Operation Game Thief shows two dead sea turtles cut open, exposing pink meat and cut flippers.

All species of green turtles are either endangered or threatened, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Atlantic green sea turtles found in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico are considered endangered, while all other populations are threatened, according to NOAA.

“The green turtle is one of the largest hard-shelled sea turtles,” according to NOAA. “They are unique among sea turtles in that they are herbivores, eating mostly seagrasses and algae.”

According to Operation Game Thief, the suspects were given tickets for illegally killing a threatened species. NOAA is investigating a federal case against the suspects, according to Texas Game Wardens.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.