Reptile enthusiast likely behind theft of iguana and leopard tortoise

Staff at a reptile park believe that a lawbreaking reptile enthusiast may be behind the theft of a green iguana and leopard tortoise last week.

The animals were snatched from Ti Point Reptile Park, north of Auckland, late last Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

Since there were so few of these kinds of reptiles in New Zealand, staff hoped police would be able to track down those responsible.

The park’s manager Mike Chillingworth told Checkpoint the thieves broke through part of the park’s fence in the dead of night, and grabbed a 17-year-old leopard tortoise.

“After they’ve come in over the perimeter fence they’ve helped themselves to one of these [a leopard tortoise] and also the iguana inside the greenhouse there.”

A sleeping leopard tortoise was small and docile enough to be taken away in a backpack, Chillingworth said.

But he said the iguana may have put up a fight.

“We have to be quite careful handling them, because they can give you a nasty injury from their claws.”

The female green iguana, 8, stolen from Ti Point Reptile Park.

He said the thief or thieves were likely reptile enthusiasts who could not get their hands on an iguana any other way – as it was illegal to own one as a pet in New Zealand.

“Most likely someone’s wanted them for either their private collection or for sale on the black market. But it’d be very difficult in a country this size to openly publicise that without being found out.”

In the case of the tortoise, it was legal to own one, but there were not many around.

Chillingworth was hoping that the rarity of the reptiles would make them easier to track down.

“Not an easy thing to keep quiet, a large iguana and a large tortoise. It’s not like a bearded dragon in your bedroom in a tank. This would require more specialist housing.”

Myfanwy Borich founded the reptile park with her husband Ivan in 1968, and still helps out around the place.

She said it was upsetting the animals had been stolen.

“I know them so well, I’ve been here so long I just about know them individually… now some of them are so heavy, I can’t lift them… so I would say there was two people, one to lift them and one to take them over the fence.”

Borich said the park had experienced “the odd burglary”, but not since 2010.

“It’s just something that’s happened out of the blue. Why? I don’t know.”

Police said they were ramping up inquires into the burglary, and were appealing to the public for any information they had.

Sergeant Dan Mcdermott said in statement that police were concerned the animals were not getting the care they needed.

He said the best thing anyone involved in the burglary could do was to immediately return the animals to the reptile park.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button