SAN DIEGO -
A turtle sent skyward with a bundle of helium balloons in Oceanside has been adopted, the San Diego Humane Society said Wednesday.
Alicia Berg, an educational program instructor at Mission Trails Park, is now the caretaker for the tortoise, which is roughly the size of a hand and now named Thomas, according to the Humane Society.
The reptile was duct-taped to a bundle of balloons and sent aloft Aug. 19, but it soon got caught in a towering eucalyptus tree on Humboldt Bay Way. About the time firefighters got set up to rescue the imperiled reptile, a gust blew it free and it landed softly on terra firma.
A Humane Society law enforcement team took possession of the creature, whose airborne adventure made national news.
Gary Weitzman, society president and CEO, called the unnatural launching of the tortoise "one of the cruelest pranks we've seen."
"This one just seems like it was a terrible, cruel prank," Weitzman told 10News.
An investigation into who is responsible was still under way.
"We've collected substantial evidence to find the perpetrator and are still following several leads," said Randall Lawrence, director of humane law enforcement for the society.
Berg, who had been following the tortoise tale, told 10News, "I was horrified. I actually cried, I was really upset and all I wanted to do was pick the little guy up and hug him."
Berg plans to use Thomas to teach children how to treat animals, according to the Humane Society.
"I thought this would be a great story to tell children," Berg said. "He's going to be going out with me to schools and spreading the message of his story and not to abuse animals."
Weitzman said, "The real fairytale ending to this story for the turtle is that he's going somewhere where he's going to actually help educate kids in the proper and humane treatment of animals. That's just poetic to me."