Published: May 14, 2014 5:39 PM EDT
Updated: May 14, 2014 5:52 PM EDT

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - A Bonita Springs man is in big trouble after wildlife officials say he tried to steal an endangered sea turtle, possibly to eat it.

A good samaritan called for help at Horton Park in Cape Coral, and the turtle was saved in the nick of time.
 
The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle has a second chance at life.

A wildlife officer tells WINK News that person saw Hoang Van Le, 65, catch the turtle and try to keep it, by tying up the helpless animal and putting it in a cooler. FWC says Van Le might of wanted to eat the turtle later on.

"It's disgusting. Rules apply to everyone, and they're there for a reason," said Bret Preston. He loves seeing the manatees, turtles, and dolphins at Horton Park.

News that someone tried to steal a sea turtle here left him speechless. "No appropriate words," he said. "They were here first. Seems a lot of people around here don't seem to care. Manatees, turtles, they were here first."

This isn't just any sea turtle. According to FWC, the Kemp's Ridley is the rarest sea turtle in the entire world, and the most endangered. There are fewer than 1000 nesting females in the world.

Van Le faces up to five years behind bars and a $5,000 fine. He could also face federal charges.

FWC officers released the sea turtle, unharmed, back into the wild.  An FWC officer says its unclear how Van Le captured the sea turtle, and says this case is very unusual.

Most of the time, when FWC saves and releases the turtles, they are caught in fishing nets.