Ex-Oklahoma Zoo Employee Sentenced for Tortoise Trafficking

File photo of a tortoise.

A former Oklahoma City Zoo employee was sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to trafficking stolen Galapagos tortoise hatchlings, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Joshua Taylor Lucas of Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Oklahoma City to a felony wildlife trafficking count. The former assistant curator of herpetology at the Oklahoma City Zoo admitted that he stole several hatchlings while working at the zoo and shipping them to a Nevada man.

Besides three years’ probation and 100 hours of community service, Taylor was ordered to pay $32,500 in restitution to the Oklahoma City Zoo.

The Galapagos tortoise is the largest in the world, and federal wildlife officials say hatchlings carry a black-market value starting at $5,000 each.

“The exploitation and trafficking of endangered wildlife for personal profit is unacceptable,” Acting U.S. Attorney Robert Troester said in a statement.

An attorney for Lucas didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on the sentence.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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