Florida Girls Light Tortoise on Fire, Set Off Hunt for Vigilante Justice

turtletorturefacebook.jpg
via Facebook
In a video that went viral yesterday, two Florida girls slammed a threatened animal on the sidewalk.
"You kids act like you never did something stupid in your life," one wrote on her Facebook.

"So fuck off!" the other one commented.

"Gettttttt obvvveeeerrrrrrr it," the Orange Park teenager with a black bob and perfectly manicured eyebrows fired back. "It's not like we took the last one off the planet."

It's true. In 2003, the Defenders of Wildlife estimated there might be as many as 800,000 gopher tortoises alive, although they are in deep decline. The animal is considered threatened in Florida, and yet the specific one that the two girls brutally lit on fire and tortured was indeed not the sole remaining reptile of the species.

Yesterday, a video was posted online of the two girls abusing a pet gopher tortoise. After the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received numerous tips through Facebook, they posted a reassurance that something would be done.

The FWC's post went viral with more than 3,000 shares and mentioned that the agency was working with the State Attorney's Office to build a case.

Facebook offers clues into the relationship between the two girls -- whom New Times isn't naming because they're both minors. In some photos, one of the girls points to it as it sits inside a fishbowl. On July 8, the girls moved in together following a family spat.

"Well my parents disowned me out of the house and luckily my friend excepted me in her house and I love her a lot!!"

Presumably she brought the turtle.

The video has been taken down from Facebook and the shock-video service LiveLeak but has been ripped by private individuals and is still circulating the internet. In it, the girls light the animal on fire with alcohol, rip its shell, and slam it on a sidewalk.

Commenters suggested numerous ways to punish the girls -- and in the vein of internet commenters, most of them were hyperbolic and disturbing. Some of the internet commenters seemed to believe in the ancient Babylonian principle of Hammurabi's Code. "Burn her," someone wrote, channeling the idea of "an eye for an eye."

"It will be up to a judge, but the inhumane treatment of any animal is never acceptable," an FWC spokesman replied to the commenters. "Gopher tortoises are a threatened species and It is against the law to kill, harass or destroy gopher tortoises, their eggs or burrows."

But more helpfully, commenters came to the rescue, eventually identifying the girls behind the cell phone footage and even posting their addresses so the FWC could easily follow up. It was a process reminiscent of one detailed in Clay Shirky's now-classic book on social networks, Here Comes Everybody, in which a man armed with the internet successfully recovers a stolen phone.

Eventually, a friend of the alleged animal abusers posted a screenshot from a private Facebook message. In it, one of the two girls wrote, "Court date and fine for sure... We know what we did was wrong and the law will handle it. We regret it and ask the Lord for forgiveness."

Although the message shows that the girls believe punishment is imminent, the FWC says justice will take time. Although rumor spread that the girls were federally charged with animal cruelty, the agency said through a spokesperson that wasn't the case. FWC officials will sit down with the State Attorney's Office next week to figure out the next step.

"They haven't been charged yet, and we want to put together the best possible case," says Karen Parker, who is handling the case for the FWC. "I understand that people are very, very passionate about this, but we need to follow the legal process, as we do in all our cases."

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti




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12 comments
ritamcvay
ritamcvay

These 2 pigs need to be burned and stomped on...trash...very filthy and complete disgust...their parents are disgusting as well....they are not sorry...who know what else they have done to animals

ritamcvay
ritamcvay

THESE LITTLE TRASH TRAMPS NEED TO BE BURNED....AND THEN STOMPED ON....THEY ARE JUST UPSET THEY GOPT CAUGHT....THEIR PARENTS NEED TO BEAT THEM...FILTH...COMPLETE FILTH

erichesketh62
erichesketh62

I don't believe for a second that one of those little delinquents wrote the message about "..we know what we did was wrong and ask for the Lords forgiveness.."  I bet one of their parents wrote it to try and lessen the public anger.  What ever they get will be well deserved, and probably not severe enough.  What is really sad, I believe there are many more young people out there that have the same disrespect for life and would do the same thing.  God help us all.

Steffi D'Angelo
Steffi D'Angelo

Disgusting. Whether or not that species is threatened or not shouldn't take away from the fact that they were torturing an innocent animal then, the geniuses that they are, posted it to FB. This is the future of America and it's frightening.

Andrea Batey
Andrea Batey

What sick disgusting pieces of garbage. Burned it, ripped the shell off, then threw it to the ground??? SCUM

Mary Ensor
Mary Ensor

Isn't torturing animals considered a precursor to sociopathic tendencies? Have most of us done something stupid? - absolutely. Have most of us done something CRUEL? I hope not

Megan Stoyer
Megan Stoyer

I've raised a few tortoises from hatchlings. They are such gentle creatures. Did the tortoise live?

Paul Sutherland
Paul Sutherland

At least they posted it on the internet so it'd be easy to prosecute.

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