Broward County

Man takes turtle from its nature center tank, releases it in pond. Cops say it’s a crime

Someone took Howard the turtle from his tank at Long Key Nature Center in Davie on June 21, 2019, and released him into a pond.
Someone took Howard the turtle from his tank at Long Key Nature Center in Davie on June 21, 2019, and released him into a pond. Long Key Nature Center

Howard doesn’t know how to catch his own food. He has no clue how to protect himself from a predator. And he is afraid of his own shadow.

The yellow-bellied slider turtle has spent his whole life in a tank at Davie’s Long Key Nature Center, being fed and cared for by center staff.

So when someone snatched Howard June 21 to release him into a pond, “he was doing more harm than good,” said Kelli Whitney, the park manager.

“Howard can’t survive in the wild,” she said of the turtle that was born in captivity and hand-reared. “He is basically a pet.”

This week, Davie police put out a “need to identify” poster with pictures of a man with a long white beard.

If found, police say, the man could face a felony animal cruelty charge and theft.

The Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center, 3501 SW 130th Ave., is a sprawling park that has trails, open space and the nature center.

Animals including Howard are housed inside the museum-like nature center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Whitney said Howard is used for educational purposes and “gets scared very easily.” When he was first released into a pond near the center, staff had some sightings, but could never get to him fast enough. He has not been seen in about a week, which is concerning.

Whitney could not comment specifically on the incident because it is still an open investigation, but said it’s important for people to realize that while they think they may be doing a good thing by releasing the animal into the wild, often it’s harmful.

“Howard would have been taken care of for the rest of his life,” Whitney said. “Unfortunately, out in the wild he will probably starve to death.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Davie police at 954-693-8200 or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477).

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.
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