POSTED: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 4:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 3:21pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — A Baton Rouge man is fighting the state to get his turtles back.
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries says Mr. Zinn was given 60 days to reduce his box turtle population of over 100 to the standard 4 per citizen possessing a valid Louisiana fishing license.
But these aren't just beloved pets. Mr. Zinn is fighting to continue the research on box turtles he started many years ago.
Robert Zinn found a box turtle on the side of the road over a decade ago.
“I wanted to know how old she was and other things about her and I started studying and in fact I found out no one really knows how old a box turtle is," said Zinn.
He then began what would soon become a life long hobby.
"I consider it to be a 30 year study of the growth of box turtles," noted Zinn.
After taking in 47 turtles found on the streets, his turtle colony quickly grew to 166 turtles.
"I call her Grandma because she very old and her shell have worn very smooth," he told nbc33.
But those turtles including Grandma, Cracker and Cupcake were taken away.
"I thought it was in reference to my application for 2013."
Zinn had valid permits for the turtles for 11 years, up until he filed for 2013, when Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries said there were too many turtles in that habitat and they didn't have enough space to live.
Zinn says he had a special wildlife possession permit and his rights were violated when his precious turtles were taken away.
“I find it kind of unlikely that I am going to get them all back that distresses me cause even if I do get them all back my experiment has been changed somewhat because they haven't been in the same environment all this time."
So now it’s up to a judge to decide the fate of the turtles and the future of Mr. Zinn's lifelong research study. Because box turtles live longer than many humans, Zinn had already included in his will funds to keep the study going when he dies.
The turtles taken from him were given to the LSU Veterinary School, and then allegedly dispersed in Florida and Texas.
Wildlife and fisheries says the lawsuit is pending and its waiting on litigation before any steps forward can be made.
A total of 115 turtles were removed from his property on April 2, 2013.