Missing tortoise worries directors at Dubuque museum

Officials believe 'Cashew' was intentionally taken from museum exhibit

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Directors at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque are really getting worried about one of their animals.

Someone stole an 18-pound leopard tortoise named "Cashew" from its cage at the museum.

Many visitors toured the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium this week, only to discover one of the biggest attractions is gone.

"Whoever did this heinous act has deprived the children and the adults from seeing what a tortoise from Africa looks like," visitor Tom Krause said.

Directors say someone climbed over a four-foot glass wall at the museum and snatched up the tortoise.

"It could have been in a backpack or a large shopping bag or wrapped it in a coat," executive director Jerry Enzler said.

"Cashew" is part of the museum's latest exhibit, which features more than 60 turtle species. The museum owns the animal, but they say her net worth is far less concerning than her well-being.

"Whoever has it, we hope would call the museum and return it or at a minimum, find out what's the best approach to keep the animal alive," Enzler said.

Directors won't reveal Cashew's special dietary needs, in hopes the thief will have a heart and return her home.

"And plus, the other tortoise is very lonely now," Krause said.

Gail DeMoss, owner of "New Earth Animal" in Galena, says the value of a tortoise like Cashew is at least $2,000.

Museum employees say there is demand on the black market for people who steal and sell exotic animals.

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