Critically endangered radiated tortoise stolen from Perth Zoo
A CRITICALLY endangered tortoise has been stolen from Perth Zoo.
The 10-year-old animal, known as a radiated tortoise, was stolen on Monday night and zoo keepers noticed it was missing from its exhibit when they arrived for work on Tuesday.
One staff member at the zoo told PerthNow the animal was worth an estimated $10,000 on the black market and said: “Radiated tortoises have been stolen over the years and as recently as yesterday one has been stolen.
“How many more animals need to be stolen before the CEO starts to take this seriously? The real concern is where and how the animal is being treated and looked after.”
Perth Zoo’s director of life sciences Maria Finnigan said the animal was “extremely rare” and the species was in danger of extinction.
She said the reason for the theft was unknown, but because of their stunning shells, radiated tortoises were heavily affected by the illegal wildlife trade, and regularly trafficked and sold on the black market.
“We hold grave concerns for the tortoise,” she said. “This species has a specialised diet and, like all tortoises, it needs help thermo-regulating, which is especially important at the moment as we are experiencing cooler mornings.
“We would appeal to anyone who has any information to come forward. Our main concern is for the welfare of this animal, not prosecution.”
The stolen tortoise is a sub-adult male with a distinctive star-shaped shell 15cm in diameter.
Native to the island of Madagascar, the animals feed mainly on grasses.
They are critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.
It is not the first time a radiated tortoise has gone missing from the zoo.
Thieves are believed to have stolen two of the animals, which can grow up to 40cm long, in 2011.
The first tortoise disappeared from its enclosure in June that year and a second went missing in September.
The animals were not found despite a search and review of CCTV footage.
A spokeswoman for the zoo said it appeared whoever took the tortoise on Monday night circumvented the “very robust” security systems.
“At the moment we are taking extra precautions including having a roster of staff watching the tortoises and removing some of our smaller tortoises from the visitor areas,” she said.
“Due to the actions of the thieves, the people of Perth now have fewer opportunities to see and learn about these stunning creatures.”