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Published: Friday, 1/5/2001

Stealing from zoos

Animal abuse turns caring people's stomachs. Theft of animals from zoos, a crime that is on the rise, comes close to doing the same.

The Toledo Zoo, an outstanding zoo among urban animal hostels, despite an occasional accident such as that which recently befell a sloth bear, was victimized some time back by a thief or thieves who stole a rare African Pygmy falcon worth about $10,000.

It disappeared in broad daylight after someone cut the cage mesh with a knife. In another incident, the San Francisco Zoo lost, then found, two koalas. Officials at the Santa Barbara Zoo caught a snake thief before he got away with his squirming booty. Zoo people say birds and snakes, which can be easy to conceal, are the most frequent objects of this kind of vandalism.

Harping about the special needs of zoo creatures won't change things as much as preventive steps will. Zookeepers need to upgrade security measures regularly and test them for effectiveness. The Toledo Zoo has such an agenda.

Zoo officials also must be vigilant about what seems an unspeakable need among some humans to taunt animals in captivity, as well as the cowards who think they are doing zoo animals a favor by “freeing” them.

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