VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- Seven rare tortoises listed as an endangered species were stolen from a Ventura County man's home late last month and he hopes a piece of surveillance video will help authorities track down the thieves.
It happened on April 29. Thieves reportedly broke into Armando Bazaldua's home in the middle of the night and stole what are known as radiated tortoises.
"They range from ages 9 to 25 years old," he said.
Surveillance video captured what Bazaldua believes is the suspects' vehicle as it drove by in an alleyway. He said the thieves took out his motion sensor and managed to avoid setting off his security cameras.
"It had to be two or three people because they carried them out of the boxes in the middle of the night with no lighting. So, they knew where my boxes were and they know how many animals I had," said Bazaldua.
He said radiated tortoises are a protected species, which require a special permit to move them.
"I was lucky enough to acquire them 30 years ago when I got my permit," said Bazaldua. "I knew people that were breeding them and they knew I knew what I was doing so it was a safe place here for them."
The tortoises cannot be legally purchased and Bazaldua is worried someone with knowledge of their rarity and worth could be trying to sell them on the black market.
However, he remains hopeful the tortoises' unique markings will help identify them.
"Mine are very unique looking and each shell is like a fingerprint," he said. "You can tell by the shell if they were mine or not. I have raised them from hatchlings. They're part of my family and I'm worried if they're taking good care of them."
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department is investigating the theft and a reward is being offered for any information leading to the tortoises' safe return.
Anyone with tips is urged to contact authorities.