It can be incredibly disheartening to read news about animal abuse day in and day out. People who are cruel to animals often get away with their crimes without ever having to face the consequences – but in the recent case of a gopher tortoise who was found dyed bright red, the perp has been caught!

Wildlife investigators found the man responsible for covering an endangered gopher tortoise, who has been named Raphael by his rescuers, with red paint and jeopardizing the animal’s life. The man, Edwin Escalera, was charged with littering and injuring the tortoise. If convicted, he faces up to $600 in fines and up to 60 days in jail.

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We shared Raphael’s story in April 2018, when The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was seeking help in identifying the person behind the abuse. The tortoise was found in the middle of County Road 455, south of Montverde, and taken into The Central Florida Wildlife Center where he received all necessary care.

According to the investigators, Escalera, who works with a paint company, dumped the paint directly into the tortoise’s habitat, WFTV 9 reports. When the FWC came to investigate the site, a small commercial business park used by a company Ram Striping to lease warehouse space and keep equipment, an officer discovered a hole filled with red paint. Investigators found that the paint on the tortoise was the same paint they found around his burrow and the same paint that the company uses on pavement. Escalera claimed that he did not know the tortoise was in the hole. Regardless, it is NEVER acceptable to dispose of paint in this manner. Many commercial paints contain toxic substances that are not only harmful to animals but the environment as well.

Covering a tortoise with paint can seriously affect the animal in a number of ways, including disrupting their heat regulation and causing poisonous substances to leach into their bodies. If you wouldn’t cover yourself in pavement paint … then you surely would never want to put that on another living being.

Since the incident, Raphael’s carers managed to remove all the paint from his body. The recovered tortoise was released back into the wild.

Image source: MyFWC/Facebook