Man, 56, in court over giant tortoises found dead in forest

The bodies of a number of Aldabra giant tortoises were found in Devon
The bodies of a number of Aldabra giant tortoises were found in Devon - APEX

A man is to appear in court after several dead giant tortoises were found dumped in woods in Devon.

Gary Priddle, 56, has been summoned to appear before Exeter magistrates’ court on May 30.

Two bodies of Aldabra tortoises were found in Ashclyst Forest, a National Trust park north-east of Exeter, on Jan 8 and a further five were found nearby four days later.

Police say two further bodies were located in the same area as part of the ongoing enquiries.

Devon and Cornwall Police has been working with the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the RSPCA on the investigation.

Mr Priddle will face charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

One charge states: “Between Dec 29 2023 and Jan 2 2024 at Exeter in the county of Devon threw down, dropped or otherwise deposited litter, namely ten deceased Aldabra tortoises and left it in East Devon, a place to which section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 applied. Contrary to section 87(1) and (5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.”

The second charge states: “Between Dec 23 and 29 2023 at Exeter in the county of Devon did not take such steps as were reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which you were responsible, namely ten Aldabra tortoises, were met to the extent required by good practice in that due to not checking on the daily welfare and heating system relating to their care which failed and led to the animals’ death. Contrary to section 9 and 32(2) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.”

Aldabra giant tortoises are classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Together with their distantly related cousin, the Galapagos giant tortoise, they are the largest species of tortoise in the world.

They can live for more than 150 years, with some having shells that reach more than a metre in length.