Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 14:12 UK

Tortoises stolen from sanctuary

Indian star tortoise
Some of the rare species require a special diet

A number of rare and endangered tortoises have been stolen from an animal sanctuary in Cornwall.

The tortoises were taken from The Tortoise Garden at Sticker, near St Austell on Sunday night.

Police said the thieves had forced their way into locked enclosures to steal the margis, leopard, spur, redfoot and yellowfoot tortoises.

"I am absolutely devastated the tortoises have been stolen," owner Joy Bloor said.

"Many of them are tropical tortoises, which means that they will suffer if they are not kept in the right conditions."


A police spokesman said five tortoises, including Hermann's and Indian stars, were stolen from their pens earlier on Sunday, possibly by a visitor who went to the garden which was open to the public.

John Hayward, co-ordinator of the national theft register for exotic animals, said some of the stolen tortoises are on the most endangered species list and can only be bought or sold under licence.

Zeus the tortoise
Zeus, a 7st (44kg) Sulcata tortoise, was among the creatures stolen

"Because of their rarity it is illegal to offer such species into trade and it is a most serious offence which can carry upwards of five years in prison," Mr Hayward said.

"It is not the actual monetary value - our main concern is the welfare of these tortoises that have special dietary requirement."

Mr Hayward said the thieves' action had destroyed vital breeding programmes.

Among the animals stolen was Zeus, a 7st (44kg) Sulcata tortoise.

Anyone with any information regarding the stolen tortoises is asked to contact police or Crimestoppers.

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