It’s absolutely disheartening to hear about people tasked with caring for animals turn around and then betray those animals by selling them to the highest bidder. But that is exactly what happened in the UK when a former zookeeper stole two penguins and sold them to a buyer based in Nottinghamshire.
Twenty-five-year-old Bradley Tomes was jailed after he stole Humboldt penguins named Pablo and Penny from the South Lakes Safari Zoo in Cumbria. But that wasn’t his only crime. It turned out that he’d also broken into the exotic bird attraction on two different occasions and burgled other exotic species such as spoonbills, macaws, and egrets.
The theft of Pablo and Penny, who are valued at £53,000, was brought to the attention of police last year when authorities were contacted by an exotic animal collector in Nottinghamshire who had reportedly purchased the two penguins off a Facebook seller for only £9,000.
According to NottinghamshireLive, the buyer, Reece Oliver, stated that the birds were in poor condition when they arrived. Police were able to arrest Tomes when he went back to Oliver’s house to pick up the penguins and refund the buyer their money. Pablo and Penny’s penguin species are native to the Pacific Coast of South American countries, like Chile and Peru.
While it was great that they were able to recover the penguins, the Crown Prosecution Service has said they’ve been unable to trace the other birds involved in Tomes’ thefts, like the twelve Roseate spoonbills. Not only were these birds worth nearly £20,000 but they were also part of the only collection of the bird breed in the UK.
Wendy Evans from the CPS has stated that Tomes “showed utter disregard to the wellbeing of the birds he stole from his previous employer for his own financial gain.” She added that he tried to cover up his tracks by pleading with the buyer not to reach out to police when they birds turned out to be unwell. Instead, he tried to bargain for a refund. But thankfully, the buyer decided to expose him and his crimes – crimes he tried his best to deny while in custody despite the “overwhelming evidence” that the police had on him.
As of Friday the 30th of October, Tomes received his jail sentence of two years and eight months from the Preston Crown Court, according to Preston News. According to NottinghamshireLive, a spokesperson for the Cumbria Constabulary stated that Tomes’ actions put the lives of Pablo and Penny at risk, however, it was lucky that the buyer ended up taking the penguins to the vet, as well as reporting Tomes to the police.
The spokesperson added, “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.”
Hopefully this type of problem can be tackled as exotic animals are not commodities to be traded, they’re living beings.
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