‘They’re babies:’ 5 tortoises, valued at nearly $900, swiped from Pet World in theft caught on camera

WEST ALLIS -- Police are searching for a man who allegedly stole five Sulcata tortoises from Pet World located in West Allis -- reptiles that could be in grave danger.

According to the West Allis Police Department, the suspect stole the tortoises from the business located near 108th and Oklahoma. Employees at the pet store said the tortoises are babies and eat a strict diet of vegetables and vitamins they need to survive.

The theft was caught on camera.

"They are $179.99 a piece and they stole five," said Maxine Niedzielski with Pet World.

That's nearly $900 in all -- gone faster that the babies can move. It happened on Feb. 26 but wasn't discovered until Feb. 28.

"I think they left the flap open," said Niedzielski.

The surveillance video shows the suspect -- described as a white male, who was last seen wearing a red jacket, dark-colored stocking cap, dark pants and black and white shoes -- poking around the room for about five minutes. He can be seen looking into a glass cage to his right while lifting open a door that is supposed to be locked.

"Went in the tank that had the most in it and grabbed whatever they could," said Niedzielski.

It's left employees shell-shocked.

Maxine Niedzielski

"Yeah, it's really sad. We had quite a few of them! Nine of them," said Niedzielski.

On Tuesday, March 6, just four Sulcata tortoises remained at the store. Niedzielski said they're about six months old, and while they might look tiny now, they'll double in size every year until they're about three feet long and 200 pounds.

"Just to think about having a baby tortoise that might not get the right care, might not get the right vitamins, not get fed every day. It's stressful because they need so much more. They're babies," said Niedzielski.

Tortoise theft suspect courtesy West Allis police

According to the Pet World website, all of their Sulcata tortoises are from local, private breeders within Wisconsin.

If you recognize the suspect, or have information related to this theft, you're asked to contact the West Allis Police Department at 414-302-8000 or remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 414-476-CASH.