HUNTER Valley Zoo general manager Justin Pearson was faced with the unenviable task yesterday of cancelling appearances at charities and children’s hospitals after thieves broke into the Nulkaba zoo and stole six snakes and two alligators.
Mr Pearson said he was ‘‘gutted’’ after delivering the bad news to staff at Ronald McDonald House, where he and his scaly creatures entertain terminally ill children and others with unique disabilities every month.
The creatures, stolen during a break-in at the Lomas Lane zoo after closing time on Sunday, include a water python, a Woma python, a Murray Darling python, a black headed python and two diamond pythons.
Central Hunter police said the snakes were not considered venomous.
Two rare juvenile american alligators, 60 and 80 centimetres in length respectively, were also stolen.
‘‘I’m absolutely gutted,’’ Mr Pearson told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘I had to call all our regular charities and hospitals and tell them I couldn’t come anymore, I have nothing to bring.’’
He said the small, privately owned zoo, set on a 10 hectare property, relied on their collection of reptiles, that had been accumulated over several years.
‘‘I visit Ronald McDonald House once a month and give some of the disabled children there a hands on experience,’’ he said.
‘‘The kids can pat the alligators on the belly and touch a snake, they really enjoy it and we always hope that it cheers them and their families up.’’
Mr Pearson said the thieves had cut a huge hole in the boundary fence before using bolt cutters to gain access to the enclosures.
He said seven kangaroos escaped through the hole during the break-in.
Staff had only recovered three last night.
Mr Pearson said the thieves could be intending to sell the reptiles on the black market but warned that if they weren’t kept in the appropriate conditions there health would deteriorate quickly.
He said there was a real concern the thieves would release the alligators into the wild where they could pose a danger to wildlife.
Staff at Hunter Valley Zoo are preparing to offer a reward for information in a bid to recoup the creatures.
Central Hunter police are investigating the break-in and want to speak to anyone with information.