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Happy ending! "Flying Tortoise" gets the last laugh after cruel prank

SAN DIEGO -- A horrible prank at the expense of a helpless tortoise has gone unpunished, but the sad tale of the "Flying Tortoise" has concluded with a happy ending.

The land-dwelling reptile was the victim of a terrible joke when someone duct-taped the tortoise to several balloons and let them loose.

On Aug. 19, someone reported to Oceanside Police Department that a turtle taped to balloons had gotten stuck in a tree. The police informed the San Diego Humane Society, which safely rescued the tortoise and took him in.

Since then, the humane society has named him "Thomas the Tortoise" and cared for the reptile.

The good news continues. Today, the humane society announced that Thomas has been adopted by Alicia Berg, an educational program instructor with the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation, and will help her provide educational opportunities to teach children about the proper treatment and care of animals.

Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to find out who pulled the prank.

“This is one of the cruelest pranks we’ve seen. Fortunately, this animal was physically unharmed in this instance,” said Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA. “But now, what was a cruel prank is a very inspiring story. Thomas can now be a representative of animal cruelty to hopefully prevent something like this ever happening again. Preventing animal cruelty is our mission, so seeing a happy ending for Thomas is a huge success.”

Randall Lawrence, director of Humane Law Enforcement at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, said the investigation continues.

“We have Humane Officers in the field seven days a week investigating and pursuing cases of animal cruelty and neglect, which is one of the primary aspects of our mission. In just the past year, 14 cruelty cases have resulted in prosecution, and thousands more have been investigated,” he said

“We’ve collected substantial evidence to find the perpetrator and are still following several leads. We look into every claim and take these cases very seriously," he said. "If anyone has any information about this case, or any other instance of animal cruelty or neglect in the San Diego area, please call us at 619-243-3466.”

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.