ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Earlier this evening at approximately 5:30 p.m., the St. Petersburg Police Department made a significant breakthrough in the case of the stolen rare tortoises that disappeared from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm back in November 2022.
Joshua McCarty-Thomas, a 46-year-old individual, was apprehended by the authorities for his involvement in the theft.
The St. Petersburg Police Department collaborated closely with the St. Augustine Police Department after receiving a crucial tip regarding the possible whereabouts of the stolen endangered Galapagos Tortoises. The tip led the investigating officers to a residence they were already looking into for unrelated thefts. After obtaining a search warrant, law enforcement officials from both agencies carried out a joint operation.
During the search, the authorities discovered one of the endangered Galapagos Tortoises alive, while unfortunately, the other tortoise was found deceased. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) provided valuable assistance to the two law enforcement agencies by scanning and verifying the microchips implanted in the tortoises.
McCarty-Thomas has been charged by the St. Augustine Police Department with grand theft, and additional charges in multiple cities throughout the state, including stealing rare books and comic books.
Action News Jax had previously reported on the theft of the endangered animals six months ago, shedding light on the severity of the crime and its potential impact on wildlife conservation efforts.
Each of the stolen tortoises is estimated to be worth up to $10,000, according to John Brueggen, the director of the Alligator Farm.
The recovered tortoises, which were born at the farm in 2017, were a part of the facility’s Species Survival Plan.
Brueggen emphasized that, at the time of their theft, the tortoises weighed about 20 pounds. However, as they grow older, these remarkable creatures can reach an astonishing weight of up to 600 pounds by the time they are 30 years old.
The successful recovery of the stolen tortoises brings hope to wildlife advocates and conservationists who have been deeply concerned about the well-being of these endangered species.
In a statement released by the Alligator Farm, the organization expressed both relief and sadness regarding the recovery of the stolen Galapagos Tortoises.
The statement read, “Recovered Galapagos Tortoises: One has survived, but sadly, one has not. Both tortoises are being returned, but we are saddened by this news. Thank you to all the law enforcement agents across Florida that helped track down the individual and recovered our juvenile Galapagos Tortoise. We will update you with information as soon as we have it.”
The Alligator Farm promised to provide further updates on the situation as more information became available, keeping the public informed about the ongoing developments surrounding the recovered Galapagos Tortoises.
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