Sunday, May 19, 2024

Stolen tortoise case crawls to a close

Police admit it was a slow-moving investigation until a breakthrough put officers in Northland on to the trail of a stolen tortoise.

The 17-year-old male leopard tortoise, along with an eight-year-old female green iguana, were stolen from Ti Point Reptile Park, near Leigh, on the Hauraki Gulf, between 19 and 20 March.

The theft was reported to Police in Warkworth, who swiftly appealed to the public for help as concerns grew for the welfare of the stolen animals which, it was feared, would be sold illegally.

“Progress had been slow, but things turtle-y changed last Friday when a Northland mum called the reptile park after someone gave her daughter a tortoise for her birthday,” NZ Police said in a statement.

“The woman was reluctant to say who had made the gift. Police were called and worked with DOC for the handover of the tortoise in Kaitaia’s main street. The animal then made the nearly-300km journey home.

“It’s thought there is a black-market breeding program involving this type of tortoise, the fourth largest tortoise in the world. They can reach a maximum weight of up to 40kg, but generally weigh between 10kg and 15kg. Their native habitat is in eastern and southern Africa.”

Police say “the tortoise is said to be shell-ebrating his return” to the reptile park but, sadly, the iguana is still missing.

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