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Devon: Police launch investigation after seven dead giant tortoises found in woodland

Several giant tortoises have been found dead in woodland in Devon.

Devon and Cornwall police said seven dead tortoises were found in Ashclyst Forest to the north of Exeter.

Two of the tortoises were found last Monday, while another five were found nearby on Friday.

The force said they were thought to be Aldabra giant tortoises, which are classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Investigations are under way to identify the owners and establish the circumstances surrounding the animals' deaths, as well as the disposal of their bodies.

Inspector Mark Arthurs said: "We are appealing to members of the public for information to try to establish the circumstances around this discovery and to identify those responsible.

"We would ask that if anyone knows anything, they get in touch.

"We would also like to hear from anyone who has recently purchased a giant tortoise in the area or knows of anyone who normally has a large number of tortoises but has fewer now."

The National Trust said the animals were found on its land and added: "We can confirm that sadly seven rare Aldabra giant tortoises have been discovered dead on National Trust land near Exeter over the past few days.

"The tortoises are not native to the UK. The incident is now being investigated by police."

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Aldabra tortoises and their distantly related cousin, the Galapagos giant tortoise, are the largest tortoise species in the world.

They can live for more than 150 years, with some shells reaching over a metre in length.