Man charged with felony for stealing 14-year-old endangered tortoise from zoo

A Texas man was arraigned Wednesday on a state jail felony theft charge for taking a 14-year-old radiated tortoise from Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.

KFXV reported that a police report was filed Feb. 6, saying an endangered radiated tortoise was stolen.

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The next day, the Brownsville Police Department said the male tortoise, valued at $10,000, was returned to the zoo unharmed.

The Brownsville Police Department said in a separate Facebook post Julio Cesar Marroquin, 23,  was arrested Tuesday for the theft.

Gladys Porter Zoo reptile and amphibians keeper Ashley Ortega told KRGV the critically engaged species is native to Madagascar.

“This is also what's hurting the wild counterparts is that a lot of poachers are taking them out of the wild for illegal pet trade or sometimes they make jewelry out of their shells,” Ortega said.

Credit: Brownsville Police Department

Credit: Brownsville Police Department

Police say that may be why Marroquin stole the reptile in the first place.

KRGV reported Marroquin allegedly fled from a hit-and-run crash with the tortoise, who was located thanks to a microchip.

It is not clear how Marroquin was able to steal the tortoise, according to KGNS.

“Now we are looking into different ways to better protect our animals,” Ortega told KRGV. Those measures include additional cameras and security.

KGNS reported Marroquin could serve two years in prison if convicted.

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