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17 Dec

Second tortoise returned to Perth Zoo

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Perth Zoo senior vet Simone Vitali (left) and WA Minister for the Environment Stephen Dawson examine one of two Madagascan radiated tortoises that were stolen from Perth Zoo. Photo: AAPTwo people have been charged after two tortoises stolen from Perth Zoo seven years ago were recovered.
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Meanwhile, the WA government and police are looking at boosting security at the zoo following a meerkitten theft and recovery last week.

Two Madagascan radiated tortoises were separately taken from the zoo in June and September 2011.

One of the critically endangered reptiles was found in the backyard of a Girrawheen home on September 9, while the other was recovered from a Greenwood residence on Wednesday night.

A 29-year-old man was charged with possessing stolen or unlawfully obtained property, while a 35-year-old woman has been charged with stealing and trespassing.

The tortoises have injuries to their shells and will be in quarantine for 30 days.

Senior veterinarian Simone Vitali said staff had given up hope of recovering the tortoises and were amazed to have them back at the zoo, describing it as a “dream world”.

Dr Vitali said tortoises, which are trafficked around the world, recover from stress very slowly.

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

“To have them treated as a commodity is just really soul destroying.”

After the tortoises were stolen, the exhibit was fully enclosed.

Dr Vitali also told reporters the meerkitten taken and recovered last week was back with its family, and keepers were trying to get it onto an adult diet because it had been weaned too early.

“It’s gaining weight, it’s also getting every day harder and harder to handle and more and more like an adult meerkat,” she said.

“That’s encouraging too because that means it’s much less of a theft risk because it can look after itself.”

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said there had been increased security at the zoo in the past few days, including a guard patrolling the grounds and police presence.

“If there are enclosures that the WA Police think we need to change we will certainly take that action,” he said.

“We’re looking at increasing cameras around the zoo and strengthening enclosures.”

Mr Dawson said the state government would also consider harsher penalties for such crimes but has ruled out bag checks.

Police say a 22-year-old Beverley man will be summoned to appear in court over the meerkitten theft, while a 23-year-old woman will face a charge of receiving.

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