Australian zoo fears for missing endangered tortoise

File photograph of the stolen tortoise Image copyright Perth Zoo
Image caption The 10-year-old tortoise, above, was discovered missing from its enclosure earlier this week

A critically endangered radiated tortoise has gone missing from its enclosure at Perth Zoo in Australia.

Zoo keepers believe the animal was stolen and could end up being sold into the illegal pet trade.

They first noticed that the 10-year-old animal was missing from its exhibit when they arrived for work on Tuesday.

It is not the first time a radiated tortoise has gone missing from the zoo - two tortoises were stolen from the same enclosure in 2011.

Native to the island of Madagascar, radiated tortoises are critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching.

"There are security cameras installed throughout the zoo. We are currently analysing CCTV footage and are investigating the situation," a spokeswoman for the zoo told the BBC.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Illegal poaching and habitat loss have rendered radiated tortoises critically endangered

The missing tortoise is believed to be a young adult with a distinctive star-shaped shell, measuring around 15cm (5 inches) in diameter.

It is still too young for its gender to be determined. No sign of a break-in was reported.

Maria Finnigan, the zoo's director of life sciences, feared that the missing tortoise was in danger of being trafficked.

"We hold grave concerns for the tortoise. Due to their stunning shells, these tortoise are heavily impacted by the illegal wildlife trade and regularly trafficked and sold on the black market," she said.

"We are appealing to anyone who has any information to come forward. Our main concern is for the welfare of this animal, not prosecution."

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