‘Grand Theft Tortoise:’ St. Augustine Alligator Farm says two endangered tortoises stolen from park

SAINT AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A tortoise theft in St. Augustine has police busy looking for a possible suspect. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm said a pair of endangered Galapagos tortoises were stolen from the park Wednesday afternoon.

“This is almost like grand theft auto, except its grand theft tortoise now,” John Brueggen, the farm’s director, said. “They’re the rarest of some of the rare species that exist on the Galapagos.”

He said they can be worth up to $10,000 each. The endangered pair was born at the farm in 2017 and was part of its Species Survival Plan.

“All offspring in that program will grow up to reproduce at some point. So it would be a shame to lose them out of that program altogether,” Brueggen said.

Now only two tortoises are left as part of the program unless someone finds the stolen tortoises. Brueggen said they weigh about 20 pounds, but by 30 years old they can weigh up to 600.

“They’re more difficult than the average pet tortoise. It took us years to learn that.”

He added that they will not survive cold Florida nights outdoors. Staff checked the grounds to ensure they didn’t escape, but they didn’t find anything. Now St. Augustine Police and Florida Fish & Wildlife are looking into it including sifting through hours of security camera footage.

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