Police in Washington state are struggling to apprehend a pair of turtles spotted with swastikas painted on their shells in a bizarre act of vandalism. Despite their slow-moving reputation, the fugitive reptiles remain at large.
Startled visitors at Gene Coulon Park in the town of Renton notified police of the swastika-sporting reptiles earlier this week, but the Renton Police Department says it has been unable to catch the critters and wipe off the offensive symbols.
“Renton Police were made aware that two of our Gene Coulon turtles had some markings painted on their shells,” the department said in a Facebook post. “We made an attempt to locate them but so far they have evaded apprehension.”
The police have enlisted the aid of the US Department of Agriculture to round up the turtles, according to the Merced Sun Star, but residents are already a bit shell shocked by the strange experience.
“It sits with you uncomfortably,” one park-goer told a local media outlet, while another said in bewilderment: “It’s very bizarre … what’s going on?”
Resident Chad Cashman-Crane has even organized a ‘Rally Against Hate’ event at the park after the vandalism, hoping “people will show up and strongly say this isn’t OK,” according to local media.
A regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, Miri Cypers, also weighed in on the incident, calling it “troubling and unfortunate,” but pointed out the artist may not have been the quickest turtle in the pack, painting the hate symbol backwards.
Someone pulled a similar stunt near St. Petersburg, Florida in 2016, adorning one turtle with three swastikas, but the animal was soon cleaned and returned to its habitat.
After a number of other turtle-painting mishaps in the state – not all of them featuring swastikas – Florida wildlife officials were forced to issue a statement warning that paint can impede the animals’ ability to absorb nutrients and might contain toxic chemicals.
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