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Officials Seize 4 Huge Tortoises From Highlands Home

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Aldabra tortoise (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Aldabra tortoise (credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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HIGHLANDS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Officials have charged a Highlands man after they found four very large tortoises at his home.

Authorities say Richard Hines Jr. is charged with possession of exotic species without a permit after they found Aldabra tortoises, ranging in weight between 25 and 600 pounds, in his backyard.

Neighbors called authorities after they heard the tortoises “crying,” according to State Environmental Protection Department spokesman Larry Ragonese.

The turtles were taken from the home on Tuesday and the Monmouth County SPCA was on hand for the rescue mission.

“The guy, what he did was make a makeshift pit. He dug a hole in the ground to keep them confined,” said Chief Buddy Amato of the Monmouth County SPCA. “It was filled with water, half of it, and it was just disgusting, it’s horrific. These animals are gorgeous and for them to be living like this is disgusting.”

The reptiles are native to South Africa and can’t survive in wet weather or temperatures below 65 degrees. They are the second largest turtles in the world behind the Galapagos tortoise.

“A Galapagos can handle a wet environment, marshy wet weather. This turtle cannot. This turtle if left in that kind of environment would get pneumonia and succumb,” said Amato.

Hines was given 10 days by officials to improve their living conditions.

The animals were taken to the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township.

Aldabra tortoises can live more than 200 years. Amato said an expert who examined the reptiles said the largest tortoise, weighing a whopping 600 pounds, is about 52-years-old.

Hines had apparently shipped them when he moved to New Jersey from North Carolina.

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