Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thieves Targeting Zoos and Safari Parks to Supply Greedy Animal Collectors

I had no idea this problem is so widespread. This is just beyond sickening. To think that someone would further make the life of a zoo animal hell and actually steal it and ship it to wherever is just beyond me. Also, think of the zoo adult who has just given birth. On top of the zoo hell he/she lives in, then he/she loses their baby.

Here are a few quotes from the article below to show the extent of the problem:

"We live in a designer world and people are not satisfied any more with a budgie or a canary -- they want something more exotic," said John Hayward, a former police officer who runs Britain's National Theft Register, the only national database of animal thefts in Europe.

“He says on average Britain's zoos have suffered a major theft every week for the past few years, involving dozens of animals worth thousands of pounds (dollars, euros).”

“U.S. zoos also suffer thefts: In 2000, two golden eagles and a bald eagle were stolen from Santa Barbara Zoo in California, apparently for their feathers; also that year, teenagers stole two koalas from San Francisco Zoo. In 1999, two rare Egyptian tortoises were stolen from the Bronx Zoo in New York; they were later returned.”

“In 2000, thieves took 16 lion cubs from a Jakarta zoo. In the Middle East, four masked thieves grabbed a lion cub from a zoo in the Gaza Strip in November.”

Article:

Thieves swoop on exotic animals

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/07/12/
britain.animals.ap/

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 Posted: 1008 GMT (1808 HKT)

LONDON, England (AP) -- Missing marmosets, abducted alligators, purloined penguins: Thieves are targeting Europe's zoos and safari parks to supply animal collectors who want to own ever more exotic species, officials say.

Conservationists say the practice is harming animals, threatening vital breeding programs, and adding to an already flourishing illegal trade in exotic birds and animals.

"We live in a designer world and people are not satisfied any more with a budgie or a canary -- they want something more exotic," said John Hayward, a former police officer who runs Britain's National Theft Register, the only national database of animal thefts in Europe.

He says on average Britain's zoos have suffered a major theft every week for the past few years, involving dozens of animals worth thousands of pounds (dollars, euros).

Conservationists fear that the demand for exotic animals will put further pressure on wild populations, which thieves have already targeted for years.

This past Friday for example, a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Lima, Peru, will hear how a vast trade in exotic birds -- both legal and illegal -- has decimated populations of African grey parrots, prized for their ability to mimic human speech.

Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says 360,000 African greys were legally traded between 1994 and 2003 -- most of them into Europe -- while many thousands more were illegally traded.

Zoo thefts made headlines in December when Toga the baby jackass penguin was stolen from Amazon World Zoo Park on the Isle of Wight off southern Britain. He was never found.

On June 18, thieves made off with five rare marmosets worth several hundred pounds (dollars, euros) each from Drusilla's Zoo in East Sussex, south of London. Police later recovered four of the creatures, along with 14 other monkeys stolen from zoos in Devon and Cambridgeshire; two men were arrested and will appear in court on August 27.

Hayward said primary targets are smaller monkeys -- including South American marmosets, Tamarins from south and central America and spider monkeys from Mexico and Brazil -- as well as large exotic birds like macaws and flamingos, and reptiles, including turtles and tortoises.

In the last three years, some 80 mostly small monkeys have disappeared from some of Britain's more than 350 zoos, including several dozen large zoos and safari parks, Hayward said. Only a few have been recovered.

Hayward said some animals are stolen to order by professionals: "These animals are not tame and you need to know how to handle and care for them," he said.

The more exotic or endangered the animal, the higher the price. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says one rare hyacinth macaw can fetch up to 25,000 pounds (US$45,000; 38,000 euros).

There are casual thefts, too: In the late 1990s, a man abducted an alligator from a zoo in central England. "He took him to a party to impress his friends, then left him on the doorstep of a pet shop," Hayward said.

Harry Schram, director of the 300-member European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, Eaza, says some 40 percent of European zoos have suffered thefts.

"This problem is growing -- with more species being declared endangered and more regulation, people are going underground," Schram said in a telephone interview from his office in Amsterdam.

"I worry that people are putting a price on animals, creating a market, and that this will ultimately impact on wild populations."

Schram said police in the Netherlands and Belgium are trying to coordinate on this issue, "but this is really exceptional."

"We have no idea of the extent of thefts in Germany, Switzerland and eastern Europe and virtually no information on southern Europe," he said.

"Sometimes the only time we hear of a theft is ... when a zoo is reporting on a breeding program and animals are discovered to be missing."

Eaza says animals stolen in Europe likely go to European collectors, since other potential markets like the United States and Japan tightly restrict animal imports -- and Middle Eastern countries are following suit.

Traffic International at Cambridge, in eastern England, which monitors trade in endangered animals across Europe for the CITES Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, says each year from 1996 to 2000, British customs officials seized around 450 illegally imported consignments; around 17 percent of those were live animals, mostly reptiles, parrots and macaws.

U.S. zoos also suffer thefts: In 2000, two golden eagles and a bald eagle were stolen from Santa Barbara Zoo in California, apparently for their feathers; also that year, teenagers stole two koalas from San Francisco Zoo. In 1999, two rare Egyptian tortoises were stolen from the Bronx Zoo in New York; they were later returned.

In 2000, thieves took 16 lion cubs from a Jakarta zoo. In the Middle East, four masked thieves grabbed a lion cub from a zoo in the Gaza Strip in November.

Many zoos are now increasing security and some are tagging and chipping their animals.

Kath Bright, manager of Amazon World Zoo Park, said penguin parents Kyala and Oscar mourned the loss of 3-month-old Toga for several weeks.

"We think Toga may have been stolen to order, because this was not an opportunistic theft," she said.

There has been a happy ending: on Feb. 14, Kyala and Oscar hatched another chick, dubbed Temba, meaning hope.

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