The ‘truly devastated’ owners of seven tortoises stolen from a shed in Northwich have issued a desperate plea for their safe return.

Thieves took the juvenile Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises – an endangered species – from their heated vivarium inside a garden shed at a remote family home overnight between December 10 and 11, in what is thought to be a ‘planned crime’.

Police attended the scene, but did not find any fingerprints.

The couple who own them raised the four males and three females – who are around ten-years-old and range between eight and 15cm in length – from hatchlings.

'Enormous' emotional attachment

One of the owners, who wish to remain anonymous, said: “My wife and I are truly devastated after 10 years of care we have given them.

“We have on many occasions taken the tortoises to schools to educate youngsters about the need for conservation.

“Having dug up the eggs when laid, incubated them and raised them from the hatchling stage, our emotional attachment to them is enormous.

“We have put in hundreds of hours of work and invested a lot of money into looking after the tortoises and I can’t begin to describe the sadness we now feel.”

Concern is growing for the welfare of the four males and three females
Concern is growing for the welfare of the four males and three females

The Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise species is subject to specific legislation and cannot be traded legally without a special licence issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Anyone offering them for sale or purchasing them without the licence is therefore committing a criminal offence.

John Hayward, from the National Theft Register, said: “This was a planned crime and the animals have been specifically targeted.

“These juvenile tortoises are not currently in hibernation and we are therefore deeply concerned as to their welfare.

“Whoever is responsible for this callous crime may not be in a position to care for them, especially as to their needs, comfort and necessary nutrition.”

Anyone with information about the tortoises’ whereabouts is asked to contact Mr Hayward on 01869 325699 or