JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A rare tortoise is back home, while the death of the other tortoise is being investigated by health officials.
Two of the Galapagos tortoises were taken from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park back in November of 2022.
“They came in with a baby stroller, and they hopped over the enclosure and put the tortoises in the stroller,” Officer Dee Brown with the St. Augustine Police Department said. “Walked right out of the Alligator Farm.”
46-year-old Joshua McCarty-Thomas and another man took the tortoises down to St. Petersburg, Florida.
“St. Petersburg Police Department received a tip on an unrelated theft,” Officer Brown said. “Tortoises were in the yard on the property that they were investigating.”
“We found one of the tortoises wandering around in a little pen in the front yard,” Yolanda Fernandez with St. Petersburg Police said. “Then, we found the other one. The carcass was in the freezer.”
The dead tortoise belonged to the alligator farm. Investigators were able to recover the other missing turtle and bring it back home on Wednesday.
“There’s been heartache and there’s been concern,” John Brueggen said. He’s the Director of the St. Augustine Farm Zoological Park. Action News Jax told you back in December about the grand theft of the two tortoises.
St. Augustine police determined the two were taken on November 27, 2022. “Of course, we’d like to have them both back but just having some resolution to this.”
Brueggen said the tortoises are worth about $10,000 each. Since the theft, the farm has tripled its security.
The other suspect, in this case, is in custody, but his name is not being released yet because the investigation is ongoing. Officer Brown said these men are wanted in other counties and have been accused of stealing valuable books, as well.
A veterinarian with the University of Florida will come to examine the deceased tortoise to learn how it died. The other Galapagos must remain quarantined for 90 days.
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