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Thieves nab turtle, tortoises from Palm Springs botanical garden

July 30, 2012 |  1:25 pm

Fifteen reptiles were missing from a Palm Springs botanical garden after tortoise and turtle thieves hit two enclosures and a counter top terrarium over the weekend.

The thieves struck sometime between 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, taking 14 tortoises and one turtle, Moorten Botanical Garden owner Clark Moorten told the Desert Sun.

"I came out and looked at the little water pond and wow, there were no turtles in there," Moorten told the newspaper. "It's sad, maddening and disappointing."

The list of missing reptiles includes four babies and a 10-year-old, 35-pound African sulcata, Moorten said. The oldest tortoise taken is 40 years old; the largest measures about 16 inches in diameter.

Two baby tortoises were likely in burrows when the thieves struck and were overlooked, Moorten said.

Moorten guessed there was more than one person involved in the theft — the reptiles are "too big to stuff in your pockets," he said, and someone likely handed them over a brick wall surrounding the gardens.

There have been reptile thefts in the past, he added, but never this many taken at once.

Palm Springs police Sgt. Harvey Reed told the newspaper Sunday there was no information about the suspects in the case.

Moorten, who runs the gardens his parents established 74 years ago, told the newspaper his primary concern was that the reptiles wouldn't get the care they need. He's offering a $200 reward for information leading to their return.

"Please bring 'em back," he said.

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— Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

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