THE owner of a mob of much-loved meerkats has made a heartfelt plea for their safe return after they vanished in the night.
Tony Triffitt's collection of plaster cast versions of the furry critters are his pride and joy.
And they were a popular sight in the sheltered housing complex where he lives.
But someone has taken a shine to them, and grabbed 11 of the meerkats, latin name Suricata suricatta, leaving just a pair of the models behind.
At least they have each other for company but Tony, of Badgervale Court, Woodpecker Road, Podsmead, is missing them and believes someone out there may be able to help return them to their rightful place in his front garden.
"I am an old age pensioner and I miss them," he said.
"I can't afford to replace them.
"A lot of people who come past here like them and they raise a smile.
"I don't know who took them but it may be children who did it for a bit of a prank, and now it's got out of hand.
"They are very much missed, and I would like them back."
He said his meerkats are modelled on the original species from Africa, rather than the Russian characters (like the one pictured) which pop up in TV adverts and viral internet videos. He has reported the theft to Gloucestershire Constabulary, although it's not known whether the wildlife officer or CID are on the case.
Anyone who has seen the models is asked to call police on 101, quoting crime number 261 of December 6, 2012.
Alternatively, he said, they can be handed in to the warden at Badgervale Court.