The great Werribee Zoo tortoise riddle

The African spurred tortoise, and (below) the man the department wants to speak to. (Supplied)

As far as crimes go, this one could prove to be a slow-moving investigation.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is looking for a man who dropped off an illegal breed of tortoise at Werribee Open Range Zoo earlier this month.

The man entered the zoo’s ticket office about noon on March 8 and left following a short conversation with a zoo employee.

It’s believed the man left a mature female African spurred tortoise in a nearby bush.

The tortoise, which is native to the Sahara Desert, is aged between five and eight and weighs just over 13 kilograms.


The DELWP says the tortoise has the potential to harm Australia’s native species through transmitting exotic diseases.

It is an offence under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (Vic) to keep, possess and trade in the species.

Senior DELWP investigator Stephen Lavelle said the department was trying to ascertain how the man came to possess the tortoise and why it was left at the zoo.

Crime Stoppers has released CCTV images of the man the DELWP wants to speak to about the incident.

He is described as Caucasian, tanned, 172cm tall, with a slight build and dark cropped hair. He was wearing a black close-fitting sport-style T-shirt and long trousers, possibly sandals/thongs and black sunglasses.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or DELWP: 136 186.