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Arrest Made In Theft At Santa Fe College Zoo, 7 Animals Returned

Santa Fe College Police announced the arrest today of 20-year-old Sedrick Tyrezi Price in connection with the theft of animals from the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.

Seven of the 11 missing animals were returned to the zoo on Monday after police received a tip from the public, said Ed Book, Santa Fe College police chief.

Price is charged with grand theft and is a resident of the Crossings at Santa Fe apartment complex where police recovered the seven animals.

The animals returned to the zoo included a squirrel monkey, a prehensile-tailed skink, three Florida box turtles and two red-footed tortoises, said Johnathan Miot, director of the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.

Two box turtles and two gopher tortoises remain missing, according to Miot.

The 11 animals were originally discovered missing from the zoo grounds in two separate incidents -- one on May 23 and the other on May 30, according to today's police announcement.

Santa Fe College Police said the investigation is still ongoing and more arrests are possible. It cannot be confirmed that the two cases are related yet, but Book said it is a strong possibility.

“When the incident happened, we were pretty devastated by it, we were shocked by it, we felt violated,” Miot said. “It was a lot to deal with because we’ve never dealt with anything like this before at this zoo.”

Still missing, the gopher tortoises and box turtles pose an additional concern and a Florida Wildlife Commission officer has been assigned to assist with the case.  These animals are protected species in Florida, and three animals were in rehabilitation for injuries and/or on medication Book said.

“When an animal which is injured and out of our care, that just means there is a greater possibility that that animal becomes reinjured or the injuries are exacerbated,” Miot said. “So, absolutely there’s a lot of concern that these animals that are still out of our care are in danger.”

The seven returned animals received an initial health exam and appeared to be in good health, said Miot. The zoo has since implemented additional security measures and will continue to add more.

“I was just so happy because, having them in my area, having the turtles down from six to one, it was very devastating for us, and then being told that they had actually found some of them, it was just such a relief to me and all of my friends,” said Natalie Booth, a second-semester Santa Fe College student involved with the zoo program.

Booth said she was particularly affected by the loss of the box turtles and was excited to have them back. She is a part of the Birds One group which oversees care for the birds and box turtles.

“We just want them home and safe,” Booth said.

Alena Poulin is a reporter at WUFT News and can be contacted by emailing alenarene@ufl.edu. You can follow her on Twitter under the handle @AlenaPoulin and Instagram under the handle @alenarene