Tor­toises re­turned

Joondalup Times - - NEWS - Lau­ren Pi­lat

THE an­i­mal king­dom at Perth Zoo was once again com­plete last week when two crit­i­cally en­dan­gered tor­toises al­legedly stolen seven years ago were re­turned home.

The two Mada­gas­can ra­di­ated tor­toises, be­lieved to have been stolen in 2011, were found by War­wick po­lice of­fi­cers last month at two sep­a­rate north­ern sub­urbs prop­er­ties.

As a re­sult, a Green­wood woman (35) was charged with steal­ing and tres­pass and a Gir­rawheen man (29) was charged with pos­ses­sion of stolen or un­law­fully ob­tained prop­erty.

Se­nior vet Si­mone Vi­tali, who was work­ing at Perth Zoo when the tor­toises were taken, said to have them back was like a “dream” be­cause staff had given up hope that they would ever see them again.

“I re­mem­ber how dev­as­tated ev­ery­body was when it hap­pened,” she said.

“When we heard that they had been brought back it was just ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

Since the tor­toises went miss­ing, Peth Zoo staff re­lo­cated the rest of the col­lec­tion to en­sure their safety.

Ms Vi­tali said to have the tor­toises, which are of­ten traf­ficked around the world, treated as a com­mod­ity was “soul de­stroy­ing” for staff.

“We try re­ally hard as a zoo to use th­ese an­i­mals as am­bas­sadors for con­ser­va­tion and crit­i­cal en­dan­ger­ment,” she said.

“To have been taken away from us and treated as some­thing that could be a pet just de­val­ues them and strikes at the heart of what we’re try­ing to do as a zoo.”

Ms Vi­tali said the two tor­toises had been quar­an­tined and would be mon­i­tored for at least a month to en­sure they were healthy.

In an un­re­lated in­ci­dent, a baby meerkat was al­legedly taken from its en­clo­sure late last month.

Since then, a man and a woman have been charged with the meerkat’s theft and are due to ap­pear in court at a later date.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Stephen Daw­son said since the baby meerkat went miss­ing, se­cu­rity pres­ence had been in­creased at the zoo and en­clo­sure struc­tures had been re­assessed.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Stephen Daw­son, Perth Zoo se­nior vet Si­mone Vi­tali and vet­eri­nary nurse su­per­vi­sor Peta Moore as­sess­ing the health of the re­turned tur­tles.

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