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A C Highfield

The problem of theft is one facing all tortoise keepers, indeed, the same problem faces everyone keeping any species of 'exotic' animal. There is no reason to panic over the situation - the incidence of theft is relatively small, however, it is certainly advisable to take reasonable precautionary measures.

Opportunist thefts

These account for the vast majority of incidents which come to our attention. You can do much to prevent your tortoise from being stolen by:

  • Keeping it securely shut indoors, or at least well out of sight whenever your garden is unattended or overnight
  • By not advertising the fact that you have a tortoise
  • By making sure fences are sufficiently high to prevent the tortoise being readily visible and ensuring all gates are securely locked

You can also install a simple intruder alarm system. Infra-red detector systems are now available at low cost and these are highly effective. They detect the body heat of an intruder, and versions with built-in floodlights are available from most DIY stores at very reasonable cost. We highly recommend this type of device.

Further measures

Although it will not prevent thefts, it is a very good idea to photograph (and video) your tortoise. If it is stolen (or lost) photos are extremely useful in proving ownership and hence in facilitating recovery. Clear colour photos of the tortoise taken from the top, bottom and side are all that is necessary to prove identity conclusively. There is a method of implanting a microchip transponder under the tortoise's skin, but in our view, good preventative measures and photographs are just as effective - and much cheaper. A small, thin metal idenity tag can also be glued, with epoxy cement, to the underside of the animal. This is quite durable, but obviously, could be removed by a determined thief.