Endangered Sea Turtle Photobombs Swimmers

Green sea turtles are an endangered species, so they can't afford to pass up a good photo op. When you're struggling against the threat of extinction, you really need to get your face out there.

It seems to be working in the image above, which was taken earlier this week and has quickly gone viral. The scene began when several friends were trying to take a photo on Apo Island, a popular diving destination and marine sanctuary in the Philippines. The turtle apparently surfaced for air in front of the camera just as the shutter opened, immortalizing itself with a side-eye photobomb for the ages.

"We were posing for a group photo at Apo Island when this sea turtle surfaced to breathe and photo-bombed!" writes Diovanie De Jesus, a member of the group who posted the photo on his blog. "Yes, the photo is authentic, just like the turtle," he added in response to a skeptical commenter.

Green sea turtles inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans around the world, where they can grow to more than 300 pounds feeding on algae and seagrasses. The ancient reptiles are endangered globally despite their wide range, due mainly to man-made dangers like egg collection, beach development, bycatch in fishing gear and ocean plastic. It's illegal in most countries to kill, harm or collect them, and their ability to attract eco-tourists has begun to make them more valuable alive than dead, anyway.

Apo Island, for example, abandoned unsustainable fishing practices last century to establish a marine sanctuary, which is now seen as a model for other fishing communities in the region. The abundance of healthy coral reefs and other marine life at Apo Island supports two resorts as well as a diving tourism industry, and some of the most popular attractions are sea turtles, known as pawikan in the Philippines.

As De Jesus points out, the photo above illustrates the kind of balance this has achieved, providing "a reminder that humans and creatures like this gentle pawikan can co-exist."