Six foot boa, other snakes stolen from World Aquarium in St. Louis

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by Diana Zoga | KMOV

azfamily.com

Posted on June 14, 2012 at 6:22 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 8:26 PM

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Police are investigating the theft of five snakes, some as long as six feet, and a chameleon from the World Aquarium in downtown St. Louis.

A six foot long Albino Boa Constrictor, a five foot long Brazilian Rainbow Boa Constrictor, a four foot long California Kingsnake, four and a half foot long Dumeril's Boa, and a two foot long Ball Python are missing.  The thief or thieves also stole a veiled chameleon.

All together, they're worth more than $10,000.

"I think they knew these were high valued animals and they could take these animals and market these animals," said World Aquarium President Leonard Sonnenschein.

Employees noticed the snakes and chameleon were missing on the morning of May 19th.  There was no sign of a break-in and police quickly ruled out the possibility that the reptiles escaped on their own.

"These screws were unscrewed.  So, it was clear that somebody had unscrewed this exhibit to get into the top of the exhibit," explained Sonnenschein - pointing to the lid of a glass aquarium that housed two of the largest snakes.

Sonnenschein says that the night of May 18th, two electrical contractors were working at the World Aquarium after the aquarium closed to the public.  No employees were around, but Sonnenschein says he knew and trusted one of the contractors.  He didn't know the assistant.

"We do not, on any regular basis, leave contractors here alone.  This is the first time, but this is a well known contractor to us.  The person who was not well known to us was the person who was the helper person."

World Aquarium leases space on the second floor of City Museum in downtown St. Louis.  Surveillance cameras in City Museum were rolling at the time, but police and Sonnenschein declined to detail what the video captured.

Detectives interviewed the contractor.  However, police haven't been able to track down the assistant.  He is considered a person of interest.

"We've put out some information on the snakes to statewide law enforcement agencies in case they come across anybody trying to sell or trade these kinds of reptiles," said 4th District Detective Sargeant Paul Piatchek.

The snakes are not venomous.  Sonnenschein says the six foot long Albino Boa is the only aggressive snake, taken.  It will bite a person, in self-defense.

"If you know that anybody who has a bright, red albino boa that's mean... it's probably ours."

This isn't the first time World Aquarium was the victim of theft.  In 2004, two former City Museum employees were caught with a stolen two-headed rat snake after a tipster called police.  Officers recovered the snake, unharmed, hours after it was taken.

Sonnenschein says he's concerned the snakes and chameleon aren't receiving good care.  They were donated to World Aquarium, which is a non-profit, and would cost thousands to replace.   The creatures also were trained to interact with the public, which Sonnenschein says makes them priceless.

Anyone with information about the snakes is asked to call St. Louis Police.

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