In an unexpected heist, thieves stole over $40,000 worth of insects and lizards at the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion last month.
On August 22, about 90 percent of the insectarium's animal population was swiped, but it is possible that some insects were taken over the course of several days, John Cambridge, the insectarium's chief executive officer, said to the New York Times. The stolen animals include leopard geckos, warty glowspot roaches, and tarantulas. Some of the insects are also highly venomous — a six-eyed sand spider, one of the most venomous spiders in the world, is still missing.
Authorities believe the heist was an inside job. The Philadelphia Police Department is currently investigating three current or former employees of the insectarium, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. No arrests have been made as of Thursday.
Several perpetrators were also caught on security cameras sneaking out of the insectarium with plastic containers filled with the creatures. At the scene, blue staff uniforms were also pinned to the wall with knives.
A handful of insects, including a Mexican fireleg tarantula, have been recovered and returned to the insectarium. But thieves also stole inventory logs, making it difficult for staff to identify which creatures have gone missing.
“I really don’t think the perpetrators realize the severity of what they were doing,” Cambridge told the Times. “We believe these were taken for the purpose of resale.”
While the crime has affected the insectarium in drastic ways, Cambridge said he remains hopeful for the organization's future.
“We are going to be able to use this as a learning opportunity to build an even better insectarium,” Cambridge told the Times. “We just want our critters back.”
The building's second and third floors will be closed until November 3, while the first floor butterfly pavilion and gift shop will remain open. The organization also created a GoFundMe campaign to accept donations and keep the insectarium afloat.
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