FWC: Gopher tortoise abuse under investigation


The gopher tortoise and its burrow are protected in Florida.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Action News has learned two girls from Orange Park are under investigation for inhumane acts against a gopher tortoise.

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Video circulating the Internet reportedly shows the girls lighting the small gopher tortoise on fire.  Another clip shows a girl stomping on the tortoise and laughing and screaming.

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A spokesperson for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said the agency has received numerous complaints about the video.  Action News has reviewed the video.

Portions of it are too graphic to use on-air and online.

Florida Fish & Wildlife: Protecting Gopher Tortoises

Karen Parker with the FWC said officers are investigating the case and working with the State Attorney's Office to determine whether charges will be filed.

Gopher tortoises are listed as a threatened species in Florida.  The tortoise and its burrow are protected by state law.

Photo Gallery: The gopher tortoise

The Clay Humane society issued a statement to Action News after hearing about the investigation.

"Animal abuse is a key indicator of future violence towards human beings," said Dr. Christian Broadhurst, senior staff veterinarian at Clay Humane, a nonprofit veterinary clinic in Orange Park.  "These acts of cruelty typically escalate to future abuse of animals and people. It is vital that anyone who learns of violence towards animals contact the police immediately.  We commend the young people who saw this animal abuse online and alerted the Clay County Sheriff's Office to help prevent future crimes like this one."

Action News is staying on this developing story.  Check back for new information.

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