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Stolen tortoise may have only hours to live
THEY have just hours to find him or he could die.
This three-year-old tortoise was today at the centre of a police investigation after he was stolen from his tank at Southampton Reptile Centre.
But the clock is ticking to find the little creature called Star – because he needs specific care and conditions to survive.
Staff at the store are so desperate to find him they’ve released CCTV footage which appears to show the moment he was stolen by a man who placed his hand inside his cage and then popped the little mite into his pocket.
It’s thought the man went into the store in Deacon Road, Bitterne, just before closing time on Tuesday with three others before all four left 15 minutes later, having stopped at the tills to pay for some live feed.
The CCTV footage shows the group, aged 18 to 21, looking around the shop before the suspected thief appears to open the tortoise’s unlocked cage and eventually put it into the pocket of his body warmer jacket.
Staff at the centre are angry and upset – but most of all they want to find Star before it proves fatal.
The three-year-old cannot survive in the UK unless it is kept in a temperature and humidity controlled tank indoors. It needs daily care, including being regularly sprayed with water to ensure his survival.
Shop manager Alex Westgarth, said: “I think it’s disgraceful that anyone could steal something like that from a shop and the welfare of the animal is at risk.
“It’s not the cost of the tortoise, it’s the welfare. It’s an Indian tortoise so it needs very hot and quite high humidity.
“Out in this cold, we’ve probably got until this afternoon before it’s gone.
“It’s absolutely shocking. I can’t understand how somebody could do something like that to a live animal. We really just want that tortoise back, even if it’s put in a box outside the front door.”
The man is described as being relatively tall with short brown hair. He was wearing jeans and a grey jumper under a blue and red body warmer.
It is thought that one of the men he was with could be a regular of the shop.
A police spokesman added: “The missing tortoise requires a high level of daily care. Even a change of atmosphere could be dangerous for the reptile. That, combined with a change of diet, could mean death for the animal within hours of reading this appeal.”
Anyone with information should contact Luke O’Shea at Southampton Central’s Western Area Crime Desk on 101.
Indian Star Tortoises
IF they are cared for correctly, Indian star tortoises can live for up to 80 years and they can grow up to the size of a dinner plate.
They can be recognised by their unusual lumpy shell decorated with bridge yellow stars and can sell for around £350, which is more than an average tortoise because it is less common.
Star tortoises need to be kept on a special diet as certain foods can lead to their death.
They must be kept apart from other species of tortoise as they are susceptible to catching diseases.
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