Ex-zookeeper stole two penguins from his old workplace

Bradley Tomes

NEWS AND COMMENT: Bradley Tomes, 25, used to work at Southlake Safari Zoo in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, UK, until 2016. He’s just been convicted of the theft of rare birds from the zoo, in July and October 2018, and has been described as “callous and selfish” by Judge Beverley Lunt. Mr Tomes’ barrister in court said that he was “a very popular and devoted animal lover”.

Bradley Tomes

Bradley Tomes. Police mugshot.

In two “carefully coordinated” burglaries he stole two Humboldt penguins named Pablo and Penny both of whom were micro-chipped which she apparently forgot about or wasn’t aware of, and 12 spoonbills. His break-in to the zoo caused several birds to escape because of the damage caused. Some were never found. On the radio it is reported that the penguins were ill when he tried to sell them to a buyer that he had found but who had become suspicious. The buyer appears to have contacted the police and Mr tomes was arrested in January 2019 as he took the birds to the buyer’s home in Nottingham.

We are told that he made up a story which the judge described as ridiculous and ultimately he pleaded guilty to stealing the birds which, incidentally, included three macaws. He admitted transporting them and trying to sell them. He was jailed for two years and eight months by judge Beverley Lunt. The spoonbills were part of a group and in stealing them he had destroyed the group causing them unnecessary suffering as eight had died. I wonder if he was also convicted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006? This is clearly theft and burglary but I wonder also whether he was punished for causing unnecessary suffering to animals. The Times report does not mention this.

Tomes had been previously convicted of animal neglect and sentenced to 20 weeks (suspended for a year) in July 2019. His barrister in court was up against it and tested the judge’s credulity when he described his client as a “devoted animal lover”.