The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion said around 7,000 venomous spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlers were stolen from the premises late last month in a bizarre heist believed to be an inside job.
‘The stolen animals include insects and arthropods used in school programs, exhibits throughout the museum, and behind the scenes rearing and feeding programs,’ the IBP team said August 29 on their GoFundMe page.
The IBP team is raising funds in order to regrow their collection after the thieves took roughly $50,000 worth of insects, animals and other creatures.
The insectarium shared saddening photos to social media last month that showed bare shelves inside the center.
Museum owner John Cambridge told Gizmodo that at least five employees were caught on surveillance stealing part of the collection that was placed in one of their cars afterward.
Cambridge later checked a back room for the animals and insects but found nothing.
‘It’s not uncommon for a creature to be taken out of its tank and into the back room receive whatever,’ Cambridge told Gizmodo.
While checking the back room, the CEO saw two employees’ work shirts hung from the wall with knives.
The employees have not been identified. Cambridge did not say whether the individuals would be terminated.
He said he initially didn’t wish to get police involved – and just wants to ‘contact the people that did it and [tell them]to bring the creatures back.’
Philadelphia police, however, are investigating the matter.
The team’s GoFundMe description further said: ‘We strive to bring insects and other arthropods to the public in a way that they can be loved and appreciated.
‘People may walk in thinking that insects are “creepy” but leave with the knowledge that these creatures have a unique beauty and are incredibly important for us and our planet.’
The owner believes the heist was financially motivated and fears some of the animals and insects have already been sold.
‘They are not difficult to sell, and there’s a thriving market of insect enthusiasts,’ he added while speaking to Gizmodo.