MONTVERDE, Fla. (AP/FOX 13) - The spray-painted Florida tortoise who became an Internet sensation this week is back to its normal color.
The tortoise, named "Raphael," was found by two people along a road in Lake County and completely covered in red spray paint. The animal's limbs were covered in concrete. The people who found the tortoise took it to an animal rehabilitation facility. The director says he's sleeping soundly and curious about his new environment.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say a layer of paint can severely obstruct that ability. The animals also have veins and nerves running through their shell. Wildlife officials say it's illegal and harmful to the health of a gopher tortoise to apply man-made substances to it. Toxins from the paint also can leach into the tortoise and affect its internal organs. Gopher tortoises are state-listed as threatened and are a protected species.
The tortoise will be released in about 10 days.
FWC officials are continuing their search for the person or people who spray painted Raphael.
Anyone with information about who put paint and concrete on the tortoise is asked to call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), dial #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or email Tip@MyFWC.com.
Anyone contacting Wildlife Alert can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.