Confused sea turtles march into Italian restaurant

ROME Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:23pm EDT

A loggerhead sea turtle crawls to the sea after being treated for injuries at the Las Vistas beach in the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, June 22, 2008. REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero

A loggerhead sea turtle crawls to the sea after being treated for injuries at the Las Vistas beach in the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, June 22, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Santiago Ferrero

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ROME (Reuters) - About 60 newly hatched sea turtles lost their way during their ritual passage to the sea and marched into an Italian restaurant instead, a conservation worker said on Monday.

The baby turtles -- which ended up under the tables of startled diners at the beachside restaurant -- were probably thrown off track and lured by the eatery's bright lights, said Antonio Colucci, who was called to help rescue the group.

"They saw the artificial lights and took the wrong route," said Colucci, who works on a turtle monitoring project for the conservation group WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature).

"The diners were at first quite curious and then someone alerted the coastal authorities."

The stranded turtles, which had hatched on a beach in the southern Italian region of Calabria, were released into the sea.

Female sea turtles nest on beaches and their offspring instinctively head to the sea after hatching from their eggs.

(Reporting by Deepa Babington; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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