'Bring my baby back': Wally the 'emotional support' alligator goes missing in Georgia

A famed "emotional support" alligator has gone missing while on a trip with its owner after being targeted by suspected pranksters.

Distraught Joie Henney believes his 1.7m-long pet called Wally was stolen as a prank from an outdoor enclosure next to his holiday home in Brunswick, Georgia.

It was then apparently dumped outside a nearby property - before authorities came to collect it and then released the reptile "back" into the wild of a 438,000-acre swamp dozens of miles away.

Mr Henney said the alligator had helped relieve his depression for nearly a decade, and the bond between the pair has earned them tens of thousands of followers on social media.

"We need all the help we can get to bring my baby back," Mr Henney said in a tearful video posted on TikTok, where Wally has 143,000 followers.

"Please, we need your help," he added.

Mr Henney, who lives in Pennsylvania, had taken Wally with him on a trip to the port city of Brunswick last month.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources confirmed it received a report of a nuisance alligator in the area on 21 April and a licensed trapper was dispatched to capture it.

The agency said the reptile was "released in a remote location", but stressed it did not know if the creature was Wally.

"The trapper came and got Wally and dropped him off in a swamp with about 20 other alligators that same day," Mr Henney said in a social media post earlier this week.

"The swamp is very large and the trapper said the chances of them finding Wally is slim to none."

Mr Henney has urged his followers not to risk their safety by joining his hunt for his beloved reptile and said all he wants is information.

A fundraising page set up to cover travel costs, vet bills and "potential legal costs" has so far raised more than $8,000 (£6,400).

"All we want and honestly all anyone wants is for the trapper who was doing his job to give us a location," he added.

"We would even have zero issues giving him the reward for Wally's safe return or any other licensed trapper for that matter."

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It is illegal in Georgia for people to keep alligators without a special licence or permit, and the state's Department of Natural Resources says it does not grant permission for pet alligators.

Pennsylvania has no state law against owning alligators, though it is illegal for owners to release them into the wild.

Mr Henney, who describes himself as a reptile rescuer, said he first met Wally after his friend captured him in Florida and dropped him off "as a joke" in September 2015.

"But the joke's on him now," he told Sky News last year.

Wally's popularity soared last year when he was denied entry to a baseball game in Philadelphia.

Mr Henney said Wally does not bite and his food must be dead before it is handed to him.