Sep. 1—Lil-E the tortoise needs help — and for those that might have taken him to come out from under their shell.
One of two tortoises that belongs to Nancy resident Otis Moore as a pet, Lil-E has gone missing. Local social media has been abuzz about the disappearance in recent days, as photos have circulated of a group of individuals appearing to take the Sulcata tortoise and put him in the back of a truck.
Moore and those in his circle have made social media pleas to help see Lil-E returned home safely.
"Everybody in Nancy knows who I am," said Moore, "and knows I'm the turtle guy out there."
Lil-E — short for "Literally Enormous," an apt description of the approximately 40-pound, two-foot-long tortoise — went missing this past Friday, August 26.
"He was out in his grazing pasture, which is not uncommon," said Moore. "I don't know how it happened, how he got out, or if he got out, or if he was taken out, to be honest with you."
Lil-E and Moore's other pet tortoise Shelly, also a Sulcata, each live in a pen about 20-feet-by-30 feet in size, with about an eighth of an acre of pasture land that they can graze.
The tortoise was purchased several years ago at Tim's Reptiles in Burnside. The store was closed down by authorities last September, and operator Timothy C. Lorraine of Whitley City, charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty; he pleaded guilty to resolve three separate cases in Pulaski District Court in April.
"Every time anybody got something from (that store), it was like rescuing an animal," said Moore.
Moore has a history with animal rescue and rehabilitation, given his former involvement in Pulaski's Wildlife Matters Rehabilitation Haven in Nancy. That facility remains home to Goblin, another Sulcata tortoise that was rescued from Tim's Reptiles when it was shut down. Moore began a newsmaking effort to return Goblin to Africa, the home turf of his species, which remains ongoing.
Lil-E and Shelly aren't trying to go to Africa, however, and instead live with Moore. Lil-E is 12 years old — relatively young, considering that type of tortoise can live roughly 150 years.
But with Lil-E's life currently in potential danger, Moore just wants him back.
"I would give $100 reward for his safe return, no questions asked, even if (those who apparently took Lil-E) brought him back," said Moore. Those with information can reach him on Facebook, said Moore, or go through Wildlife Matters Rehabilitation Haven or Liberty Nature Center in Pulaski County, both of which know how to reach Moore.
Moore noted that Lil-E's temperature must remain about 55 degrees at all times, and must only have a vegetarian diet; if those conditions aren't being met, it could threaten the tortoise's life.
Some believed a tortoise found in Illinois that was publicized on Facebook Wednesday might have been Lil-E, but Moore said it was a different tortoise and Lil-E remains missing.
"We are using the public (to help)," said Moore. "We have the faces of the guys who took him. We're hoping someone sees that and recognizes who it is. We've had a few different leads.
"I know their faces have been posted enough that they've seen (about the disappearance), so they know this is not a wild tortoise; we don't have wild tortoises in Kentucky," he added, asking the public, "Just do what you can to send him home."