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article imageFla. girls to be investigated for torture, death of rare tortoise

By Karen Graham     Jul 17, 2014 in Crime
Orange Park - Two Orange Park, Florida teenage girls are under investigation by state wildlife officials after posting two videos online that shows them torturing and then stomping to death a rare and threatened gopher tortoise.
"Warning: The video above contains material that some viewers may find disturbing due to the graphic nature of the material." This is the warning posted on news sites running the video showing the girls setting fire to a defenseless animal, and then stomping on it until it was dead. The video with this story will not show the full sequence of events the girls are alleged to have filmed.
Videos posted online showed two girls in Orange Park, Florida dousing a rare gopher tortoise with a flammable liquid, and lighting the animal on fire. The girls are shown laughing as the tortoise tries to get away from the flames.
"Let's light his head on fire," one girl said.
"Burn baby, burn baby," one said.
"Now you're scared of us, huh?" one said.
"Ugh, I just want him to die," one said.
A second video then shows one girl stomping on the poor animal until she smashes the shell, killing the tortoise. The two videos were posted on the Facebook page of Nevada Voters For Animals, a group that has been leading the fight for animal protection since 2005.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Karen Parker spoke with the Florida Times-Union, saying the agency has received a lot of complaints about the video, and are working with the State Attorney's Office to bring charges against the two girls.
"We certainly don't want anybody hurting any animal, but they're a threatened species, and it's against the law to kill harass or destroy gopher tortoises, their eggs or their burrows," Parker said.
The gopher tortoise is a terrestrial turtle possessing forefeet especially adapted to burrowing, and rather heavy, elephant-like hind feet. This is a characteristic of tortoises. They can grow from 7.5 to 12 inches in carapace size. Their diets consist of over 300 different kinds of plants, including fruits and mushrooms.
In Florida, their conservation status is listed as "under review," but in other states west of the Mobile and Tombigbee Rivers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed Gopher tortoise as "Threatened."
More about North Florida, Online video, gopher tortoise, Nevada voters for animals, state attorney general
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