Endangered Tortoise Found Seven Years After Being Stolen From Zoo
A critically-endangered tortoise that was stolen from Perth Zoo seven years ago has been found, police in Western Australia say.
Police made the discovery when they were investigating an unrelated burglary at a home in Girrawheen three weeks ago.
"We have one back and we're grateful," Environment Minister Stephen Dawson told Ten Eyewitness News.
There are now calls for the public to help track down a second Madagascan radiated tortoise after the pair was reported missing from the zoo back in 2011.
Police believe the second tortoise was taken from the Girrawheen home on the same day officers attended and have concerns for its welfare.
READ MORE: Baby Meerkat Stolen From Perth Zoo Found
The Madagascan radiated tortoise, Astrochelys radiata, only occurs naturally in the extreme southern and south-western part of the island of Madagascar. Here, it used to be one of the most common animals, but the wild population has reportedly dropped from 6.5 million to three million in the past five years due to significant poaching.
To survive, these tortoises require special diets and living areas. Dawson was told the tortoise, which was once the size of a plate, is now "massive".
"It obviously has been fed, and potentially looked after," he said.
"These aren't pets by any means. These are threatened species -- they're at Perth Zoo for a reason. For someone to steal it and to treat it as a family pet is terrible.
Dawson said the tortoise enclosures at Perth Zoo have been moved and made more secure since the 2011 theft.
"There were really close to people before, and accessible. What the zoo has learnt is there is an interest in these animals and people will do silly things and steal them," he said.
It comes less than one week after a one-month-old meerkitten was stolen from the same zoo and recovered by police from a home in Beverley, in Perth's outer-east, three days later.
"Again, this is a big, glass enclosure that is hard to scale. We're working with police to find out how that person stole the meerkat so that we can change the security around it to make sure those animals are safe," he said.
Police say a 22-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman are expected to face charges over the theft.
The environment minister is working with the Commonwealth to examine appropriate penalties, as the tortoises are internationally endangered.
Right now, the recovered tortoise is being monitored in quarantine by vets at Perth Zoo, while Dawson is hopeful the second animal would be located soon.
"It's important that the community know we treat the security and safety of our animals at the utmost," Dawson said.
"We hope (they) will get onside, and if they have any information, tell us, so police can recover the second one too."