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Thieves break into zoo and nick extremely rare animals then leave them in a park

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    Police are on the hunt for thieves who broke into a UK zoo and nicked a pair of endangered turtles.

    Employees at Dudley Zoo noticed the "extremely rare" Coahuilan Box turtles were not in their enclosure on Saturday morning (July 1) before alerting authorities.

    West Midlands Police arrived at the scene along with the National Wildlife Crimes Unit to investigate a "targeted theft".

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    But it took two days before a member of the public finally located the missing reptiles at a children's playground about three miles away in Tipton, West Midlands.

    A zoo spokesperson said: "We're overjoyed to announce the safe return of our two Coahuilan Box turtles.

    "A huge thank you to everyone who shared our social media posts and helped us retrieve them so quickly.

    "The pair were found by a member of the public three miles away near a playground in Tipton and were returned to the zoo just after 9am this morning."

    The spokesperson added the male turtles, measuring 15cm and 17cm long, had been checked over by vets and appeared to be unharmed before they were returned to their usual home.

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    "They have been returned to the Reptile House where they will remain off-show in quarantine for the next week," the spokesperson continued.

    "Work will continue over the next few days as we install extra security measures alongside the Reptile House exhibit window locks and staff will continue manning the area."

    When keepers first noticed the animals were missing they also realised the lock to their exhibit had been damaged.

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    The zoo previously said they believed the attack was "targeted" as they are the only place in the UK to house Coahuilan Box turtles, native to Mexico, and it was initially feared they had been stolen to order.

    The National Wildlife Crimes Unit are now working with West Midlands Police to investigate the theft.

    There are only 2,000 Coahuilan Box turtles, also known as aquatic box turtles, left in the wild the species facing threats from poaching and illegal collection.

    • Animals
    • Police
    • Crime

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