An African spur-thighed tortoise that was stolen from a property in Chilliwack. (Facebook/Jennifer McLaren)

VIDEO: B.C. vet clinic cares for stolen African tortoises

The three African spur-thighed tortoises were discovered by a lake in Mission

Jennifer McLaren hired a handyman to do some work on her family’s property in Chilliwack.

But, the handyman did a little more than the work he was hired to do.

“He came into our home while my dad was sleeping and stole our two baby tortoises and large tortoise,” explained McLaren in a social media post on May 24.

“This has been a sad week for us.

“We are desperate to get them back,” she wrote online, offering a reward.

Dr. Adrian Walton with the Dewdney Animal Hospital had seen the post from the Chilliwack woman.

Reptile forums were flooded with the post, explained the Maple Ridge veterinarian, a reptile specialist who keeps tortoises himself.

Then, on Saturday, May 29, Dr. Walton received a flurry of emails – a family had found the tortoises at Silvermere Lake in Mission.

Jen Auton’s son made the discovery. Soon after she parked her car her son saw what he thought to be a turtle.

“I said, don’t lie,” remarked Auton in a video taken by Dr. Walton.

But, sure enough, when she got to where her son was, she saw the two baby tortoises and big tortoise – sunbathing.

While attempting to get a hold of Dr. Adrian Walton at the Dewdney Animal Clinic, Auton said she tried to figure out if they were supposed to be living in the wild or not.

READ MORE: Pet tortoise returns to B.C. home after nine months on the lam

However, the animals were in fact, African spur-thighed tortoises, a species, Walton explained, that can reach the size of a wheelbarrow.

He told her to bring them into his clinic.

“Definitely not something we expected to find just by a lake in Mission,” he noted in the video.

READ MORE: Slow escape thwarted at Kootenay Lake

They are legal to own, Walton noted. However, they get absolutely massive, and can eventually weigh about 80 kilograms, he further explained.

“They are like walking bulldozers.

“They will dig through your flooring. They will dig through your walls. They are actually horrible pets for 90 per cent of the people out there,” he added.

Walton’s team inspected the tortoises and X-rayed them to make sure they were healthy and then reached out to the RCMP, who, he said, cleared them for release.

Then they got a hold of their owners, who arrived at the clinic about an hour and a half later where they were reunited with Frank – the largest – Mobile and Sinclair.

“COVID has increased the demand for pets of all types,” said Walton.

And, thefts that were once rare, seem to be a bit more prevalent, he added.


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An African spur-thighed tortoise that was stolen from a property in Chilliwack. (Facebook/Jennifer McLaren)

Staff at Dewdney Animal Hospital care for the tortoises. (Dr. Adrian Walton/Special to The News)

The owners of three African spur-thighed tortoises are reunited with their pets at Dewdney Animal Hospital. (Dr. Adrian Walton/Special to The News)