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Posted by W von Papinešu on August 22, 2002 at 19:28:03:
HARTLEPOOL MAIL (UK) 22 August 02 Man Shells Out For Tortoises
A pet shop owner has been reunited with a pair of tortoises stolen during a night time raid.
Burglars struck at Oxford Road Pets in Hartlepool stealing two valuable sulcata tortoises worth £1,100.
The raid happened a week ago and shop owner Michael McKie believes the animals had been stolen to order to sell on to a collector.
But the 34-year-old offered a £1,000 reward for their return through the Hartlepool Mail.
He said: "After I contacted the Mail I got a lot of feedback from customers asking if they had been found yet.
"I decided to photocopy the page and post it up around all of the businesses and other areas in town.
"All of the business on Oxford Road allowed me to put a poster up and Tesco also let me which was a big help.
"I wanted to create so much publicity that the animals would become to hot to handle and they would be returned to me."
Michael got his wish when he received a phone call on Tuesday morning from a man claiming to have found the animals in the Clavering area of town.
He said: "I am very relieved to have them back. The man called me up and said that he thought he had found them.
"I had to go around and inspect them. There are a few markings on them which I can use to tell they were mine.
"He said that he had found them when he was walking his dog."
Mr McKie has now paid the reward to the man, who wishes to remain anonymous.
The animals, which originate from Southern Africa and can grow to be 3ft wide, need special care including ultra violet lighting and a constant temperature of 37 degrees centigrade.
The pair were found dumped on a patch of grass and if they had been left out overnight could have become seriously ill.
He added: "This time of year it is not so bad as they can survive outside for longer but if there had been a drop in temperature during the night they could have been very ill.
"After about a week I thought that I wasn't going to get them back."
The tortoises were stolen when raiders kicked in the front door of the shop in the early hours of Tuesday, August 13.
Since that raid Michael has increased security at the shop by installing metal shutters and letting his CCTV system run 24 hours a day.
He is also no longer going to take any chances with the precious animals he said: "I will be taking them home at the end of each night from now on, they won't be left here any longer."