United Kingdom

Thieves trying to steal 200lb Galapagos tortoise crush it with their truck as they flee 

Police are hunting thieves who tried to steal a 200lb Galapagos tortoise - and then crushed it to death while trying to flee.

Two people were caught on security camera appearing to try and steal Jasmine, a 27-year-old family pet, from a garden in the middle of the night.

Owner Jerry Fife, 63, was alerted to what was going on and raced outside and spooked the intruders at about 2.30am.

They got back in their truck and turned it around to escape, but as they left, they tragically ran over Jasmine.

Jerry Fife, 63, was left 'in shock' after two thieves tried to steal his tortoise Jasmine from his Phoenix, Arizona home but ended up running over the animal with a truck when they fled after being spotted

Jerry rushed Jasmine, one of the few captive Galapagos tortoises to be actively breeding, to the vets that specialise in tortoise care.

But tragically her injuries were too severe and Jasmine had to be euthanised.

Jerry, who lives near Phoenix, Arizona, said: 'When my motion sensor went off, I assumed it was a coyote or bobcat but nothing to be concerned about.

'I was shocked to see a truck in my yard and two people trying to steal my tortoise.

'I ran outside in my underwear and threw a rake - the closest thing to grab - at the truck and yelled "get out of here!"

Mr Fife rushed Jasmine to vets that specialise in tortoise care but sadly her injuries were too severe and she had to be euthanised

'I was pretty much in shock the whole time. I wasn't sure due to the darkness if the truck had hit her, but I knew it was close.

'When I went and got a flashlight to check, I was just devastated to see her carapace, the top of the shell, crushed in.

'Basically, the whole top of her shell was missing.'

In the clip, two figures appear to bend down to scoop up Jasmine in order to steal her, before Jerry comes out shouting, on June 7.

They drop the animal and frantically get back into their car, but as they go to leave, poor Jasmine is squashed under the tyres, breaking her spine and crushing her lung field.

In the clip, two figures appear to bend down to scoop up Jasmine in order to steal her, before Jerry comes out shouting, on June 7.

He said: 'The vets worked on her for almost an hour, cleaning up the injury so they could evaluate the damage to her lungs, spine, etc.

'He said he had never seen such catastrophic damage to a giant tortoise before.

'I knew it was a long shot that they would be able to save her, but it was still difficult.

'She would still react to my touch and could still walk, she was fighting to live but the damage was just too great.'

Heartbroken Jerry got Jasmine when she was hatched 27 years ago and had her longer than any of his other pets.

He said: 'Jasmine was my original tortoise. I got her as a hatchling in 1994 and raised her for 27 years.

Mr Fife has offered an award for information on the thieves and Phoenix police are investigating

'She is one of the few captive Galapagos tortoises to be actively breeding, laying eggs and producing offspring.

'She was a big loss; not only to me but her species.

'She was a gentle giant. She would stand up high on all four legs and stretch her neck out so you could scratch her.

'This is a vulnerable position for a tortoise, but she was trusting and would allow just about anyone to scratch her neck.

'It's important to have assurance colonies of endangered species outside of their native range.

'I want to ensure that they magnificent tortoises are available for my grandkids and future generations to see and appreciate.

'Out of sight, out of mind - if people can no longer see and appreciate a giant tortoise, they are less likely to care and support conservation of this species.'

Galapagos tortoises are endangered species can be raised in the US only with a special permit, making them extremely valuable and vulnerable to theft.

They can be sold between $20,000 (£14,000) and $70,000 (£49,000), but if they are smuggled internationally they can be worth $200,000 (£140,000).

A GoFundMe has been set up on Jerry's behalf to raise money for a reward for information, and has already raised more than $13,000 (£9,000) of its $25,000 (£17,700) goal.

Phoenix Police are investigating, and asks anyone who has information to contact them.

Retired Jerry said: 'I am amazed at the out pouring of support from this terrible incident, many people have shared in my sadness, anger and frustration.

'I want justice and for these criminals to be held accountable for their actions. I want to understand why they did this and who they are.'

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