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Two Florida girls are under investigation for inhumane acts against a gopher tortoise.
A viral online video reportedly shows the girls lighting the small gopher tortoise on fire. Another clip shows a girl stomping on the tortoise while laughing and screaming.
"Let's light his head on fire," one girl said.
"Burn baby, burn baby," one said.
ActionNewsJax reviewed the video and determined that portions of it are too graphic to use on-air and online. An edited version appeared on the station's newscast and website.
The original video and Facebook page of one of the girls have been removed from Facebook, The Palm Beach Post reported.
A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the agency has received numerous complaints about the video. Officials asked for help identifying the girls in a post on the commission’s Facebook page about 3 p.m. Wednesday. By 6 p.m., more than 750 people had commented on the post, including some who claimed that the girls were from Clay County in northeastern Florida.
Karen Parker with the FWC said officers are investigating the case and working with the State Attorney's Office to determine whether charges will be filed.
Gopher tortoises are listed as a threatened species in Florida. The tortoise and its burrow are protected by state law.
Clay Humane, a nonprofit veterinary clinic in Orange Park, issued a statement after hearing about the investigation.
"Animal abuse is a key indicator of future violence towards human beings," said Dr. Christian Broadhurst, senior staff veterinarian at Clay Humane. "These acts of cruelty typically escalate to future abuse of animals and people. It is vital that anyone who learns of violence toward animals contact the police immediately. We commend the young people who saw this animal abuse online and alerted the Clay County Sheriff's Office to help prevent future crimes like this one."