Thousands of Rare Insects and Lizards Have Been Stolen From a Philadelphia Museum
A Philadelphia museum has been hit in a nefarious heist, and in this case, you probably don’t want to be the one who finds the stolen goods. Some 7000 insects, arachnids, and lizards (80 different species in all) have been stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, according to The New York Times, and no one knows where the majority of those roaches, tarantulas, geckos, and other crawling creatures are. According to the museum's CEO, John Cambridge, it's the largest live insect heist in history.
Police have pointed to three current or former employees of the insectarium as the likely perpetrators, but several aspects of the heist are still unclear, including what day it took place. John Cambridge, the head of the insectarium, said the theft occurred on August 22, but also may have taken place over several days. The creatures are often moved from their displays for various reasons, like to be taken to educational programs, so the crime didn’t become apparent immediately, Cambridge told Gizmodo.
Security footage showed people leaving the museum with plastic containers holding the creepy cargo, which are worth an estimated $40,000 or more altogether. Oddly, the thieves also nailed two uniforms to the wall of the museum’s back storage room with knives.
The missing animals make up somewhere around 80 to 90 percent of the insectarium’s collection. Entire colonies of roaches were taken in the theft, as were numerous endangered species. (None of the butterflies were taken.) A few of the stolen creatures have been returned by police, including a Mexican fireleg tarantula, but most remain missing. That list of includes a six-eyed sand spider, a reclusive, extremely venomous arachnid native to southern Africa. "I’m not hopeful to get these critters back at this point,” Cambridge told Mental Floss. “I’m under the impression that they’ve probably already sold a good number of them.”
For now, the insectarium has closed down its second and third floors while it rebuilds its collection and displays. Cambridge has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money in the wake of the thefts. “I am determined to learn from this experience and then build a bigger and cooler place,” he says, adding that the insectarium has already received a number of donations of critters from across the country.