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Ex-Zookeeper Who Stole Penguins And Tried To Sell Them On Facebook Jailed

Ex-Zookeeper Who Stole Penguins And Tried To Sell Them On Facebook Jailed

He stole £25,000 worth of rare birds, some of which died in his care

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

An ex-zookeeper who broke into his previous place of work and stole two penguins, which he then tried to sell on, has been jailed.

Bradley Tomes, 25, nicked £25,000 worth of rare birds, including two Humboldt penguins named Pablo and Penny, and 12 rare spoonbills - eight of which sadly died.


Tomes broke into South Lakes Safari in Cumbria, where he'd previously worked for four years until 2016.

Preston Crown Court heard Tomes had carried out 'carefully coordinated' burglaries in July and October 2018.

He was caught after trying to flog the two penguins to an animal collector over Facebook, who became suspicious.

Tomes was then collared by police on 16 January 2019 when trying to transport the birds to the collector's home and was arrested.

He initially denied all matters and told cops he was an animal trader, claiming that he bought the penguins from a man in Scotland for £1,500.

But the penguins were microchipped and tracked back to the zoo.


Tomes later pleaded guilty to stealing 12 spoonbill birds on 22 July 2018 and then two Humboldt penguins and three macaws on 27 October of the same year.

He also admitted transporting and selling the animals.

Judge Beverley Lunt told Tomes his actions demonstrated how 'callous and selfish' he was.

Jailing him for two years and eight months, she said: "You carried out a carefully coordinated burglary.

"You stole 12 spoonbills, these are rare birds. As a result of the damage caused by leaving a gaping hole, other birds also escaped which have never been seen again.

"Three other spoonbills also escaped but thankfully were recovered. The others weren't and their fate is unknown.

"During your time at the zoo you had dealt with the aviary. So you knew this group of spoonbills was the only one in the UK.


"You knew they were a family group from a breeding programme. You destroyed that group.

"You didn't care, you saw them as a commodity you could sell. You let eight die, so you caused even more suffering.

"This was a callous and cruel crime. The only excuse you can make is that at the time you needed money for alcohol and drugs. Why would you steal 12 birds, which were worth £20,000?

"You caused animals unnecessary suffering for your greed.

"This crime demonstrates how callous and selfish you were. You only cared about the money you could obtain."

None of the 12 spoonbills have been recovered since the defendant's arrest - the court heard eight died and the remaining four were sold.

Featured Image Credit: SWNS

Topics: UK News, crime, Animals