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Reward increased up to $54,000 to help find Florida dolphin killer

A massive reward offered to find whoever brutalized defenseless dolphins is getting increased.

The reward to find the person who killed several dolphins in Florida, including Naples, is now $54,000, raised from the original $20,000 reward.

We spoke to people Monday who hope the increase in reward is the extra push needed to keep the case from going cold.

NOAA says there is public outcry to find whoever hurt several dolphins.

People out on the water here in Southwest Florida every day told us they hope $54,000 might be too much for someone to turn down.

“It’s awful,” Jack Bevilacqua said. “Sick person.”

Two dolphins were found brutally killed in Southwest Florida, one in Naples and one off Captiva Island.

FILE: Dolphin fatally wounded off Naples (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/FILE)

“Those dolphins have as much right to be on this earth as we do,” said Allen Walburn, the captain of A&B Charters.

Walburn is hopeful and confident the increase in reward is just what investigators need to help them catch as suspect.

“If nothing else, it will deter future people,” Walburn said. “But I think somebody will come out of the woodwork for that kind of money.”

For Walburn, it’s terrifying knowing a dolphin killer or killers are out free near the Gulf.

“I want this stopped,” Walburn said. “You don’t want people like that just destroying our resources like that. It’s horrible. I just can’t believe anybody could be so cruel to do that.”

Stopping cruelty inspired huge donations. Organizations gave $34,000 toward the reward now offered to find a dolphin killer. It was added to the original 20,000 reward from NOAA’s office of law enforcement.

NOAA says it’s gotten tips. But they’re still investigating. NOAA told us investigators are relying on people to give them information.

Anyone who wants to help investigators can contact the NOAA hotline at 1-800-853-1964. There is more information on the NOAA Fisheries web page.

NOAA says it enforces the law around dolphins. Harassing, hunting, killing, and feeding wild dolphins is illegal.

“I would be very, very nervous if I was the one who did it,” Walburn said. “I’d be very nervous right now. I think they’re going to make an arrest.”

MORE: NOAA – Report a Stranded or Injured Marine Animal

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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