May 29, 2024

Mystery Surrounds Deaths of Giant Tortoises Found in Devon Woodland

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Jan 17, 2024

The bodies of seven giant Aldabra tortoises have been discovered in a woodland area in Devon, England this week, sparking a police investigation into the mysterious and distressing incident.

Tortoise Bodies Discovered Outside Exeter

The giant tortoises, an endangered species native to the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, were found deceased in private woodland belonging to the National Trust close to Exeter on Monday, January 16th. Police were called to the scene near Woodbury Common after a member of the public reported seeing the bodies at around 4:30pm.

Officers attended and discovered the corpses of five adult and two juvenile Aldabra giant tortoises. Police have launched an investigation into the tortoises’ presence in Devon and the circumstances surrounding their premature deaths.

Aldabra Tortoises are Critically Endangered

Aldabra giant tortoises are one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, weighing over 250kg as adults. They are critically endangered, with only around 100,000 left in the wild globally. Mostly found on the remote Aldabra Atoll island in the Seychelles, the tortoises have seen population numbers fall significantly in recent decades largely due to habitat loss.

Their immense size, gentle nature, and prehistoric appearance have made Aldabras popular attractions at wildlife parks and zoos across the world. The species can live over 100 years in captivity when cared for appropriately.

| Aldabra Giant Tortoise Facts |
| Scientific Name | Aldabrachelys gigantea |
| Average Lifespan | Over 100 years |
| Average Weight | 250 kg (Adult) |
| Diet | Herbivore |
| Current Conservation Status | Critically Endangered |

Investigations Underway to Uncover Circumstances

Police have said that following the discovery, investigating officers searched the surrounding area but no further bodies or remains were found. Work is underway with partner agencies to formally identify the tortoises and ascertain where they had come from and how they arrived at the wooded area in Devon.

There were no visible signs of injury or wounds on any of the corpses, prompting questions as to the cause of their premature deaths. Toxicology tests will now be carried out to establish if poisoning was a factor, although police said they have no evidence to suggest foul play at this stage.

Detective Inspector Simon Longdown of Devon and Cornwall Police stated:

This is an incredibly bizarre and sad situation. Our priority is conducting a thorough investigation that allows us to identify where these tortoises have come from, and the circumstances that lead to their deaths.

The National Trust, which owns the site close to Woodbury Common where the bodies were found, has said it will assist police fully with their ongoing enquiries into this strange occurrence.

A Trust spokesperson commented:

This is a highly unusual event which we cannot yet explain. None of our sites in the region have ever homed giant tortoises and we are as perplexed by this tragedy as the authorities. We hope examinations of their remains will help reveal how and why these exotic animals came to be in our care without our knowledge, and enable long-term steps to prevent such a thing from happening again.

Tortoises Likely Held in Captivity Previously

Reptile experts assisting Devon Police have posited theories that the giant tortoises had likely been held captive previously at a zoo, wildlife park or private collection. The size and condition of the adults suggests they were accustomed to regular feeding and care from humans.

There remains mystery around why the animals were left abandoned at the woodland location. As giant tortoises require a heated enclosure kept at tropical temperatures between 24-29°C to thrive, it would not have been an environment they could survive long-term.

There is also intrigue around how the non-native creatures came to be transported more than 4,000 miles from the Seychelles islands to Devon without raising alarm.

Giant tortoises require licenses and permits to be legally owned in the UK. Police are exploring whether the animals were a part of an illegal exotic pet trade ring – although no evidence to support this has yet come to light.

Environmental Groups Express Sadness and Anger

As one of the rarest species of tortoise internationally, wildlife protection charities have expressed both sadness and anger at the discovery of the magnificent Aldabra animals cast away dead in Devon woodland.

A spokesperson for the Turtle Survival Alliance’s Giant Tortoise Conservation Initiative commented:

This is incredibly disheartening news. Aldabra giant tortoises are the stuff of natural history legend – affecting everyone who sees or encounters them due to their sheer beauty, size and ancient primeval nature. To hear that seven young and old tortoises have met this lonely fate is a true tragedy.

Environmental campaigners have called for a full investigation not just into the specific circumstances around the tortoises’ deaths but wider issues about the potential for unethical exotic pet trading in Britain. Some groups have demanded that Government ministers consider introducing more stringent regulations around keeping non-domestic animals in captivity if deficiencies are found which put rare species at risk.

Aldabra giant tortoises only arrived on the remote Indian Ocean atoll island they now occupy some 120,000 years ago. As one of the oldest animal species on Earth, conservationists emphasize that allowing their senseless demise is not just wildlife crime – it amounts to killing living history.

Public Urged to Share Information

Police are appealing to members of the public to come forward if they have any information that may assist officers with their ongoing investigation.

Anyone who saw suspicious vehicles or people transporting unusual items in the Woodbury Common vicinity of late should make contact. Dog walkers and ramblers who frequent that area are also urged to report anything out of the ordinary they may have witnessed over recent months.

Devon and Cornwall Police request the public avoid speculating about the circumstances of the giant tortoises’ sad demise while proper forensic investigations are concluded. However, they welcome any credible intelligence that could explain how the rare animals came to be left abandoned many thousands of miles from their natural habitat.

This deeply troubling mystery continues…




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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