This sea turtle could have ended up as dinner if he hadn’t encountered a fisherman named Monjy. He discovered the tortoise lying on his back while he was walking along the beach in the Sousse region of eastern Tunisia on July 7. He said that he quickly helped it back into the sea to save it from poachers.

There are seven species of sea turtles in the world and almost all of them are considered to be endangered.

However, poachers continue to illegally hunt them both in the sea and when they come ashore. They then sell the meat under the table at fish markets. A turtle can weigh up to 150 kilos and poachers can earn a lot of money for their catches.

Monjy told FRANCE 24 how he saved this turtle:

I was on Bou Jaâfar beach, near the centre of town. As soon as I saw it, I contacted the National Guard and the civil defence. With their help, we put the sea turtle in the back of a National Guard pick-up truck and brought it to the city port where my boat is moored.

I put him on my boat and I brought him out into the open water. At about one nautical mile, I set him free.

One of Monjy’s friends filmed the rescue operation. The video that he made circulated widely on several different Tunisian Facebook pages.

I was really emotional and happy about this outcome. I care a lot about what happens to sea turtles. These animals play an important role in marine biodiversity. Turtles are under threat of extinction not just because of poaching but also because of pollution. I’ve found several turtles that died after eating plastic bags.

The Tunisian minister of agriculture banned both hunting sea turtles and collecting their eggs in 1992 and established a plan for protecting these animals. In 1998, a nesting site was set up near Kuriat Island, a marine reserve. And in 2004, a sea turtle rescue centre was set up in the town of Monastir.