Reward Fund Grows In Case Of Threatened Tortoises Brutally Killed In Florida

fws.gov

The reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for bashing two gopher tortoises to death in Florida earlier this month grew substantially this week after The Center for Biological Diversity added $5,000.00 to the fund.

“It’s deeply disturbing that someone would harm these gentle, defenseless creatures,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney and lifelong Floridian dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “These tortoises are our wild neighbors, and they deserve justice. I know fellow Floridians and visitors to our state feel the same.”

Gopher tortoises are listed as threatened and protected under Florida law, which prohibits individuals from intentionally killing or harming them. Violating the law is a third-degree felony and punishable by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine or both.

According to a Press Release issued by the organization, the battered tortoises were discovered by children along a bicycle path in Lakewood Ranch on June 8. One of the tortoises was found dead with its shell cracked, and the other was in a pool of its own blood. Neither tortoise survived the attack.

Gopher tortoises are fully terrestrial turtles that live in intricate burrows in the sandy soils of upland forests and prairies. They are most easily recognized by their shovel-like front limbs, which they use for burrowing, and their elephant-like hind legs.

defenders.org

Sadly, gopher tortoise populations have been declining for years, mainly due to human development which over the past 100 years has taken approximately 97 percent of their natural habitat.

Gopher tortoises, which have an expected lifespan as 40 to 60 years in the wild, are important members of native Florida habitats because their burrows offer refuge to more than 350 other species of wildlife.

The community remains outraged and upset by the vicious attack on the tortoises.

At least three people have offered their own reward, totaling $1,100, via a neighborhood forum. The Lakewood Ranch community development district supervisor offered an additional $500 as reported on yourobserver.com. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has a reward hotline, and anyone offering information leading to an arrest may be eligible for a reward of up to $600 from the agency.

The generous reward fund is now at $7200.00.

Unfortunately, as of yesterday, there has been no developments in the case.

People with information are urged to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or Tip@MyFWC.com

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