May 25, 2018 – Staff members at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo discovered that four of their animals had gone missing. The two gopher tortoises and two box turtles were last seen the afternoon of Wednesday, May 23. An exhaustive search of the premises throughout the day Thursday confirmed the tortoises and turtles are missing. The staff and students are deeply concerned for their well-being. The animals missing are cared for by zookeepers because they have gone through some sort of health problem and trauma.
The two box turtles are Robby and David Beckham. Both turtles came to the zoo via the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital. Robby arrived in 2003 with trauma to his shell. Over the years the shell mended. But recently he has issues with his left eye rendering him blind in that eye. Vets prescribed daily flushes to that eye, which have been administered by the keepers. David Beckham arrived in 2012 after the vet school repaired damage to his shell from being hit by a car. After care from the keepers, the hardware on his shell was removed.
The gopher tortoises are Bowser (dog attack in July 2017) and Goldy Gopher (hit by a car in August 2017). Both of these gopher tortoises also, come from UF’s Veterinary Hospital. The veterinarians there devote time and resources to help the gopher tortoises, from x-rays to bandages to medications. The zoo assists by taking in these tortoises once they no longer need the daily attention from veterinarians. They stay at the SF Teaching Zoo, under the close observation of zookeepers, until they have completely healed. They are then released back to an appropriate habitat that is close to where they were found. Both Bowser and Goldy Gopher are not ready to be on their own. Bowser still has some shell issues, Goldy Gopher still has shell hardware and is on a weekly antibiotic.
If you hear or see any of these animals, please call the SF Teaching Zoo at 352-395-5633 immediately. Not only are gopher tortoises and Florida box turtles protected species in the state of Florida, these animals need special care.