Police are investigating the deaths of seven giant tortoises after their corpses were found in a forest.
Two were discovered in Ashclyst Forest, Devon, on January 8 and another five were found nearby on Friday, police said.
The National Trust said it was “horrified” the animals were found in one of its woodlands.
Devon and Cornwall Police believe the reptiles are Aldabra giant tortoises, a vulnerable species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Aldabra tortoises are the largest species of tortoise in the world, along with the Galapagos giant tortoise. They can live for more than 150 years, with shells sometimes reaching 3.2ft in length, and can be worth up to £2,500.
Peter Labdon, a local resident who regularly visits the Killerton Estate, told the BBC: “It seems quite horrifying... considering the length of time that they can live, it’s a dreadful shame.”
Public urged to come forward with information
Officers investigating the deaths have urged the public to come forward with information.
Inspector Mark Arthurs said: “We are appealing to members of the public for information to try to establish the circumstances around this discovery and to identify those responsible.
“We would also like to hear from anyone who has recently purchased a giant tortoise in the area or knows of anyone who normally has a large number of tortoises but has fewer now.”
The National Trust confirmed the seven tortoises died on its land and said: “Teams were horrified to discover that five deceased large tortoises were left at the entrance to Ashclyst Forest.
“Two giant tortoises were discovered in a similar area in the previous week. All the tortoises have been removed.”