What to Know
- The tortoise was covered in red spray paint and the animal's limbs and shell in concrete.
- People who found the tortoise took it to an animal rehabilitation facility.
- Gopher tortoises are state-listed as threatened and are a protected species.
The person who covered a gopher tortoise – now named Raphael – in red spray paint and with concrete was arrested over the wildlife violation case that generated outrage, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"This case generated a lot of support, so we want to share that an arrest has been made and multiple charges have been filed in relation to this crime," FWC said in a Facebook post on Friday.
The tortoise was found in the middle of County Road 455 south of Montverde, in Lake County near Orlando, by two good Samaritans who took it to a wildlife rehabilitation center in mid-April.
The animal rescue team caring for Raphael, Swamp Girl Adventures, on Thursday said the tortoise is recovering well.
"He's doing very well," the group wrote on Facebook. "Almost all the paint is gone just a few hard-to-reach places left."
FWC said it was both illegal and very harmful to the health of a gopher tortoise to apply such man-made substances to their body or shell.
Gopher tortoises are state-listed as threatened and are a protected species.
"Applying substances like paint on tortoises can inhibit their ability to absorb vitamins from the sun’s UV rays through their shells, has the potential to cause respiratory problems and can lead to harmful chemicals being absorbed into their bloodstream," FWC said. "Removing paint and concrete from gopher tortoises without harming it is a challenging process that causes the animal stress."
FWC officials said Edwin Escalera, 37, an employee of a sealcoating business, is facing felony littering and misdemeanor possession of a gopher tortoise.
FWC said Escalera improperly dumped a five-gallon bucket of paint and concrete down a hole in the ground, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Investigators found the business near where Raphael was found and saw similar-looking paint.