Much to the shock of its caretakers, an Aldabra giant tortoise, one of the largest tortoises in the world, has gone missing from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology in Mahabalipuram. The local police are currently investigating the case and are in talks with staff in the centre run by conservationist Romulus Whitaker Vadanemmeli.
According to reports, the tortoise is worth upto Rs 15 lakh in the international wildlife market. Three of its species are still present in the Madras Crocodile Bank. Police have collected CCTV footage from the premises and the call details of all employees to determine where the tortoise could have been shifted or moved. The Times of India reports that given the limited access to outsiders and the surveillance mounted in the centre, the 'theft' may have been carried out by insiders.
The tortoise was reportedly noticed missing during feeding time, when staff noticed that the count was incorrect. They immediately alerted their superiors, who informed the police. Other reports added that the tortoise species is mostly from the Aldabra Atoll islands in Seychelles and they grow up to 1.5 metres in length and can weigh over 200 kilograms. The tortoise lives upto 150 to 180 years on land.
This tortoise species is reportedly being sought by wildlife collectors and cost between Rs 70,000 to Rs 15 lakh based on its size.
The farm has four exotic turtles called Aldabra tortoises, mostly from the Aldabra Atoll islands in Seychelles. Even recently, the Crocodile bank had put up photos of its Aldabra tortoises, to wish those following their Facebook page a merry Christmas. The centre had reopened in November after closing its gates for close to eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the reopening, younger reptiles had been let out for public viewing, including four Cuban crocodiles and two African slender-snouted crocodiles.