By some miracle, Leonardo was expected to recover and is now back in the wild.
Leonardo is the tortoise that was set ablaze and live-streamed on Facebook. Police in Alabama have arrested and charged a 19-year-old man with the felony offence of aggravated animal cruelty.
“On video James Terrance Allen pours alcohol on the turtle and lights it on fire,” the Dothan Police Department posted on Facebook. “James Terrance Allen gave a taped confession to the crime.”
Back on Aug. 31, Dothan police received numerous calls about a live video stream that showed a man pouring alcohol on a turtle and saying “give me 100 views and I’ll light it.” The turtle was lit on fire, but the man “upped his threats by saying ‘give me 200 views or this (expletive) is gonna die,'” police said. And, the abuse continued.
Police moved in and arrested Allen. Investigators posted some disturbing images of the alleged abuse on Facebook, but we’re only going to share this one.
Experts identified the turtle as a gopher tortoise, which is protected in Alabama and is listed as “threatened” in the Endangered Species Act.
The turtle was sent to Big Bend Wildlife Sanctuary in Enterprise, Alabama, where there was optimism the animal would recover.
That’s where wildlife experts determined Leonardo was actually a she, and between 5- to 8-years-old. The sanctuary also expressed outrage at the crime.
“This tortoise is a living breathing creature. Many believe, as we do at BBWS, THAT ALL LIVES MATTER!,” the organization wrote on Facebook, adding: “…If you see someone abusing wildlife or any animal please report it to your local police department. Their lives do matter.”
Leonardo was set to stay at the sanctuary as long as she needed to heal, regained “her natural instincts” and started eating on her own.
But she’s back in the wild — perhaps sooner than most folks expected after such an awful ordeal.
“Beautiful Leonardo has escaped from the BBWS turtle enclosure,” the sanctuary wrote. “It was her first day outside with all the other rehabbing tortoises at BBWS and all she wanted to do was be free. Most of the animals we care for are content to have three meals a day and a safe place to sleep until they are completely healed, but sometimes their will to be free is so strong that they just out smart our best attempts to keep them contained and are quick to show us where our weak link is.”
There was a sighting, but Leonardo carried on with her journey. And the sanctuary remains hopeful for her — and other animals will be free from abuse.
“We will continue to look for Leonardo and we wish her the best. This young tortoise has had more life experiences than most tortoises much older than her. We hope she never has to deal with cruel humans ever again. Keep her in your hearts and prayers and never forget her story.”