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SC Press: Thieves creep in, steal expo critters - Rare snakes, turtles taken at fairgrounds

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Tue Jul 27 08:33:00 2004  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

POST AND COURIER (Charleston, S Carolina) 27 July 04 Thieves creep in, steal expo critters - Rare snakes, turtles taken at fairgrounds (Steve Reeves)
Whatever descriptive term one might use for thieves who broke into the Exchange Park fairgrounds in Ladson over the weekend, "squeamish" isn't it.
Thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of exotic snakes, tortoises and turtles from the Lowcountry Reptile and Amphibian Expo sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, investigators said.
They apparently weren't intimidated by slithery and sometimes creepy specimens such as Burmese pythons, boa constrictors, salamanders, frogs and spiders. Instead, expo vendors said the burglars, who gained entry to the building through a north-side door after hours, took their time sorting through the animals to find the most rare and expensive ones of the bunch.
"Whoever stole these animals were very selective and knew what they were doing," said Alan Bosch, a reptile expert from Moncks Corner and owner of Alan Bosch Reptiles. "They took animals which would sell quickly, and they took high-end animals, which could potentially bring in big money."
Estimates on the value of the stolen reptiles and amphibians range from about $21,000 to more than $40,000.
Among the stolen critters were two tri-colored hognose snakes, valued at $350 each; two albino Burmese pythons, $300 a head; four baby western pond tortoises, $300 each; and two adult wood turtles, $225 each.
Dozens of lesser-value animals stolen, as well as jewelry worth an estimated $3,400.
Bosch lost $3,800 worth of boa constrictors, ball pythons and tortoises.
He said reptiles and amphibians are becoming increasingly popular as pets, and he wouldn't be surprised if the thieves tried to sell them on the black market.
"There's getting to be a huge market for these animals," he said. "And the more popular something becomes, the bigger the black market."
Investigators are stumped so far as to who carried out the burglary. Because only a limited number of people deal in such exotic animals, they hope the mystery soon will be solved.
"It's just not your normal theft," said Capt. Dana Valentine of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. "The fact that it is so unusual might work in our favor. If someone turns up with all these animals, it should attract some attention."
Another bit of good news: The stolen snakes aren't considered dangerous to humans, at least not until they get much larger.
"Fortunately, none of these animals are poisonous," Valentine said. "But none of them are to be handled lightly."
George Ullman, owner of Turtle World in Arcadia, Fla., said the thieves robbed him and his wife of as many as 60 turtles, including four hatchling pancake turtles that sell for $450 each. Ullman estimated his stolen turtles were worth at least $11,000.
"I'm thinking these people knew something about turtles," Ullman said Monday. "They only picked the most pretty and expensive ones."
Ullman said he is worried about the safety of the stolen animals, especially the young turtles and tortoises, which require special handling and care.
"If they just stash them somewhere where it's hot, these animals will die in no time," he said.
Sam Seashole, a snake and amphibian expert from Moncks Corner, said word of the theft is spreading quickly among reptile breeders. "Everyone is incensed at what has occurred," he said.
Seashole is not convinced the theft was the work of black marketers. He said it merely may have been the work of small-time crooks looking to turn a quick buck.
"People with dubious character will steal anything of value," he said. "I tend to think it is people who were aware the animals were worth a few dollars."
Thieves creep in, steal expo critters - Rare snakes, turtles taken at fairgrounds


   

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