ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (WFLA) — Two endangered Galapagos giant tortoises are missing from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
“They’re really rare and valuable,” said John Brueggen, director of the farm. “We have two species here at our zoo.”
WTLV reported that four tortoises were in an exhibit inside the park around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30. By 4 p.m., two of them were gone.
“I don’t think it’s a prank,” Brueggen told the news station.
Brueggen said the stolen tortoises were only five years old and weighed about 20 pounds. They hatched at the park in 2017. The Galapagos giant tortoise can get up to 600 to 700 pounds and can live to the age of 100 or more.
At the exhibit, there are no doors or gates open to the public, WTLV reported. The staff members believe the thieves hopped the fence, grabbed the tortoises and hopped back over the fence to leave.
“Because they’re rare, this is almost like grand theft auto except it’s grand theft tortoise now,” Brueggen said. “Because this is an animal that on an open market would sell for $10,000.”
Brueggen told the news station that there are no signs the animals escaped on their own. Staff members have been searching the park for the tortoises. Brueggen believes the tortoises could have been taken by a savvy reptile robber or “some teenager said, ‘Oh, I’d like to have that as a pet.'”
“It’s a shame to lose a young animal like this we hatched,” Brueggen said.