Tortoises freeze to death after electrician fails to spot faulty heating lamp

Owner who dumped bodies in woodland banned from keeping the exotic animal for 10 years

Jane Dalton
Thursday 30 May 2024 19:50 BST
Ten of Priddle’s Aldabra tortoises died and he later gave up 53 to be rehomed (stock image)
Ten of Priddle’s Aldabra tortoises died and he later gave up 53 to be rehomed (stock image) (DPA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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An electrician did not check on his giant tortoises over Christmas, causing them to freeze to death after their heating lamp broke down, a court heard.

Gary Priddle, 56, admitted failing to meet the needs of 10 Aldabra tortoises at his home in Exeter, Devon, in December, in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

He also pleaded guilty to dumping the remains in woodland, including on a National Trust estate.

One of the dead animals that police found in woodland
One of the dead animals that police found in woodland (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA Wire)

At Exeter magistrates’ court, the animal keeper was given a community order including 50 hours of unpaid work and was banned from keeping tortoises for 10 years.

Aldabra tortoises, which are native to Aldabra Island, part of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, may live up to 150 years of age.

District Judge Stuart Smith told Priddle: “These 10 tortoises were exotic reptiles which were not native to this country or this climate.

“They were unique and required, I’m sure, very specific knowledge and care. They were entirely dependent and reliant on you to meet their needs.

“You described them as your pride and joy but for six days you prioritised your festive celebrations over their care and completely ignored your responsibility to them, not checking on them for that time.”

The deaths were a devastating tragedy that was completely avoidable, the judge said.

“You panicked and chose to secrete their bodies in east Devon which led to the police press release for information.

“Members of the public will be shocked and distressed to hear about the sad deaths of these 10 very impressive animals.”

The judge added: “You have expressed genuine remorse and upset. I believe you cared deeply for them.

“You have previously rescued tortoises and nurtured them. I consider this was an isolated incident.”

The court heard Priddle surrendered another 13 adult and 40 baby tortoises to police. The creatures have since been rehomed.

Priddle must also pay costs of £85 and a £114 surcharge.

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