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CAUGHT ON CAMERA: A still frame from surveillance video shows a couple allegedly stealing two African sulcata tortoises from Pacific Pets on Sunday. The store is offering a reward for information that may lead to the suspects' arrest, or the return of the tortoises.

Tortoise nabbers wanted

HESPERIA • The owners of a Hesperia pet shop are asking for the public's help, after shoplifters were caught on camera helping themselves to a couple of hard-shell friends on Sunday afternoon.

“The turtles were born on July 4th, so they’re youngsters,” said Tom Ridge, co-owner of Pacific Pets, who set up the cameras after the store lost a variety of animals and merchandise. “We’ve been here for about 18 months, and these thieves are getting more and more brazen every day.”

A store camera recorded a male and female, in their late 20s or 30s, examining several reptile enclosures before removing two $150 African sulcata tortoises as a busy clerk helped customers a few feet away.

The shop, located in the K-Mart shopping center, gave the sheriff’s Hesperia station a copy of the store’s surveillance footage and posted the 10-minute video on Facebook in hopes that the criminals will be caught.

Ridge, who noticed the missing tortoises on Monday morning, is offering a $500 reward for anyone with information leading to the arrest of the shoplifters.

“Those people have been in my store before so they’re locals,” Ridge said. “With all those tats, especially the ones on the back of his hand, he should be easy to spot.”

Popular as pets, the sulcata can reach up to 80 pounds and are the third largest species of tortoise in the world.

“You just don’t toss these turtles in the backyard. They need special care,” Ridge said. “I hope these turtles don’t die.”

The pet shop video can be viewed at www.facebook.com/pacificpets, and anyone with information can call the Hesperia station at (760) 947-1500.

Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.

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