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4,000 Venomous Insects Stolen From Philadelphia Museum, Might Be On The Loose

Beliar spider/Wikimedia Commons

If you're someone who suffers from Entomophobia, otherwise known as the fear of insects, you may want to stay away from Philadelphia for the foreseeable future.

It has been revealed that 7,000 insects and lizards worth up to $40,000 were stolen from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion.

"We found that the majority 80 to 90% of the creatures that we had in the museum were taken," Insectarium CEO John Cambridge said in an interview, Fox News reports.

"Any types of exotic tarantula, scorpions, millipedes. We specialize in the arthropods of the world and we use those to tell the story of biodiversity, etc."

Both the police and Cambridge suspect the theft was an inside job, which included 80 rare, venomous, or endangered species, such as rhinocerous roaches, six-eyed sand spider, red spot assassin bugs, zebra tarantulas, and desert hairy scorpions.

It's believed the theft taken place on August 22 and "maybe other days," as security cameras captured a group of employees carrying boxes of insects out of the building over several days beginning on August 21.

"We were just astonished that someone would take permanent creatures that they probably don't know how to take care of, and then also just leave us with empty tanks," said Cambridge.

"We know exactly who did this. They snuck out the back with all these boxes. We caught them on camera," he said. "They took all the stuff and then they didn't show up for their shifts."

Cambridge said his conviction of the identities of the robbers was cemented after they found two staff shirts stabbed into the walls of the establishment.

"The jerseys were stabbed into the wall with a knife and yeah we found ourselves robbed so we felt hurt," Cambridge said.

He said that he believes the critters were robbed with the intention for resale.

"They are very easy to sell. The enthusiast market is quite strong -- exotic pet shows and that kind of thing," Cambridge said. "There's no way they took these to be part of their personal collection."

Although no arrests have been made, police have verified they have contacted the suspects and are in the midst of searching their homes.

"They are extremely easy to hide,” Cambridge said. "We want to make sure that these creatures are treated with respect."

"I really don’t think the perpetrators realize the severity of what they were doing,” he continued, adding that their crimes could be considered federal evidence due to some the insects' origins.

"We are holding species that may have been confiscated at a port of entry. Taking those critters is literally tampering with evidence."

Although the culprits could face a harsh sentence should they be convicted, Cambridge hopes the punishment isn't too severe.

"They are young, and I really hope that this isn’t something that follows them for the rest of their life," Cambridge shared. "Everybody does dumb stuff when they’re young."

The museum has since shut down the second and third floors of the building while it replenishes its collection, and has created a GoFundMe page to acquire more bugs.

Fortunately, once avid insect collectors and other institutions heard about the robbery, they have donated some insects of their own.

But while the generosity has been appreciated, the museum says they just wants their critters back.

"These animals are ours. They are like part of the family you know? And they just get taken away and now we don't know who has them or if they're keeping them or if they're selling them or what they're doing with these animals. But it's kind of a scary world out there," insectarium staff member Trisha Nichols said.

"Give them back! How about that? Just give them back," Cambridge added.

[H/T: The New York Times, Fox News, CNN]

What would you do if you came across the missing insects? Let us know in the comments!

Maya has been working at Shared for a year. She just begrudgingly spent $200 on a gym membership. Contact her at maya@shared.com