A MAN who sold an endangered tortoise he stole from a safari park on Facebook was caught after his DNA matched saliva on a beer can left at the scene.
Eighteen-year-old Adam Steff initially tried to flog the reptile named Flo for how much she was worth - £2,000 - but accepted an offer of £30.
The two stone Aldabran Giant tortoise, which Steff of Highfield Road, Flitton, nicked from Woburn Safari Park overnight between January 4-5, was sold to 19-year-old Aiden Mckinstery.
On Tuesday, Bedford Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Mckinstery received a call from Steff in the early hours of the morning to say he was outside with the tortoise.
Mr Mckinstery, who claimed he had no idea the animal had been stolen, posted a picture of it on Facebook asking for name suggestions for his new pet.
However this was seen by a member of staff at the park who realised it was Flo. On Tuesday prosecutor Camille Gifford told Bedford Magistrates’ Court that the tortoise was recovered following a DNA match on a can of Fosters left in the enclosure.
She said: “It was only the fact that she was promptly recovered that she’s back to being fit and well. The keeper said that when she was returned Flo was a muddy brown colour when she is normally beige. She would have died if she hadn’t have been returned and that would have been devastating for the park.
“She’s from the Seychelles and they only have five of the kind at Woburn with Flo being the only female and they are hoping to breed the species.”
The court heard that Steff, a bricklaying student, had been drinking on the evening of January 4. Defending him, Anna Jumnoodoo said: “He decided to go out for a walk and was able to walk into the safari park.
“Once inside he stole the tortoise. He’s very sorry for his actions especially as he found out she had been unwell.”
She told the court Steff had no idea of the value of Flo.
Despite the court hearing that Steff initially denied the offence when he was interviewed by police, the teenager admitted burglary of a non-dwelling and was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.
He was also given a curfew from 7pm to 7am, to last two months.
Magistrates told him: “It’s a serious matter and from what we have heard you were very fortunate there were not more serious consequences.
“It was a very stupid thing to do wasn’t it and you have had time to reflect on the matter.”
In addition to the unpaid work and curfew, Steff was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.