A woman has been arrested for riding a sea turtle in Florida. Stephanie Marie Moore, 20, and a friend were photographed straddling the animal on the beach in July. The Snapchat image taken during what has been described as a night of debauchery, was circulated on Facebook and Twitter.

The image sparked a criminal investigation by police and animal protection groups in Melbourne, Florida, leading to Moore being detained on suspicion of molesting a marine turtle.

Reporting the charges on their Facebook page Melbourne Police department stated: "In early July 2015, two females were seen in photographs where they appeared to be sitting or riding on sea turtles. These pictures flooded social media networks and eventually multiple complaints were forwarded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who handled the criminal investigation.

"Today, Officers from the Melbourne Police Department responded to a disturbance in progress in the 600 Block of Espanola Way. During the course of this investigation, officers encountered a subject with an active felony warrant. The felony warrant was in reference to a county court capias request reference possess, sell, molest marine turtle or eggs nest. The subject was one of the females seen taking photographs on the sea turtles and identified as Stephanie Marie Moore."

Commentators on Twitter expressed their satisfaction at Moore's arrest. "KARMA!!! wins again!!" "Hooray ! No cure for Stupidity !" "i was one of the people ti report this, im glad they got her!!" (sic) several Facebook users wrote in response to the news.

Sea turtles are endangered in Florida and are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida's Marine Turtle Protection Act. Inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal is treated as a felony in the US and such cases of animal cruelty are met with heavy penalties in Florida.

Moore is currently being held on a $2,000 bond. If found guilty, she faces up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.