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.