Staff at Downe farm fear for tortoise safety after theft

PUBLISHED: 15:33 29 September 2010

Paul Gubby, Manager of Christmas Tree Farm

Paul Gubby, Manager of Christmas Tree Farm


A farm manager says he fears for the safety of a tortoise after falling victim to reptile thieves for the second time in months.

Sherman, a five-year-old Horsfield tortoise, disappeared from Christmas Tree Farm, in Cudham Road, Downe, last Wednesday, after a thief reached into his cage to take him.

In May the theft of Michelle, a family pet at the farm who had been in the family for 70 years, left owner Eleanor Barritt in tears before the creature was mysteriously returned to the farm a week later.

Farm manager Paul Gubby said that unless he is kept in the right conditions with heat lamps, Sherman may not survive the first few months of winter and appealed for the culprits to return the animal.

He said: “Because this little one doesn’t hibernate like Michelle does, he needs to be kept in a proper heated vivarium to stay alive. The people who have him may not realise this and he might not survive.

“Although Sherman is not as valuable as Michelle we want to get him back as he was recently donated to us by his owners.”

The farm was forced to improve security after the disappearance of 80-year-old Michelle earlier this year.

Management installed extra CCTV cameras, as well as reinforced locks but neither could deter the latest theft.

Mr Gubby said: “Because this tortoise is so small someone could have grabbed him and slipped him into their pocket.

“We could add even more cameras but we can’t keep doing that.”

Horsfield tortoises, also known as Russian tortoises, can grow up to 25cm long. A Horsfield tortoise was one of the first animals in deep space when it was sent around the moon on a Soviet Union spaceship in 1968.

Sherman is the 13th tortoise to be stolen in Bromley since April 2008.

A spokesperson for Bromley police said: “Tortoises are of considerable sentimental value to the owners and we are concerned that people who steal them do not know how to properly look after them.

“We would urge pet shop owners and reptile enthusiasts to be on the lookout for stolen tortoises and to contact us if they are offered tortoises for sale.”

Anyone with information should telephone the farm on 01689 861603 or Bromley police on 01689 891212.

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