A man who stole a pair of penguins from a zoo and sold them on Facebook has been jailed.
Bradley Tomes, 25, was jailed for two years and eight months at Preston Crown Court on Friday after taking birds worth £53,000 from South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria, a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
The former zoo employee stole Humboldt penguins Pablo and Penny as well as numerous exotic birds, including spoonbills, macaws and egrets, when he burgled the attraction overnight on two occasions in July and October 2018.
Police were alerted in January last year when an exotic animal collector from Nottinghamshire contacted them to report he had bought two penguins for £9,000 from a seller on Facebook, but they were in poor health.
When Tomes went to refund the buyer and collect the penguins, which are native to the Pacific Coast of Chile and Peru, officers were waiting to arrest him.
Twelve Roseate spoonbills, valued at almost £20,000 and part of the only collection of the breed in the UK, have not been traced, the CPS said.
Wendy Evans, from the CPS, said “Bradley Tomes showed utter disregard to the wellbeing of the birds he stole from his previous employer for his own financial gain.
“In an attempt to avoid being caught, he begged the buyer not to contact police and tried to return the money he had received for the penguins.
“In police interview he denied committing the offences, but once faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he pleaded guilty.
“This included clear evidence of him planning the thefts to order. He told police he had not attended the zoo in 2018, but ANPR and an eye witnesses, who knew him, proved he made a reconnaissance trip to the zoo, as well as being present on the days of the burglaries.”
A police spokesman for Cumbria Constabulary said: “Tomes put the lives of the two penguins at risk, and he continued to deny the offences against him in interview.
“Thankfully the man who bought the penguins contacted vets due to their poor condition and reported the incident to police, against the pleas of Tomes who offered to return the money.
“We would encourage anyone with concerns around wildlife crime to contact police, we are committed to tackling the problem and will seek to prosecute those who exploit our most endangered wildlife for their own gain.”