Blackbutt Reserve robbery: Newcastle council says it will accept return of stolen reptiles 'no questions asked' amid fears of illegal wildlife trading

A DESPERATE Newcastle City Council has pleaded with the city’s reptile robbers to return its beloved wildlife with “no questions asked”, amid fears the stressed animals could be in danger.

Fifteen reptiles were stolen from Blackbutt Reserve’s wildlife sanctuary over two nights.

Detectives believe one was taken overnight on Friday, while 14 were nabbed in a 15-minute window about 1.30am on Sunday.

In what appears to be a well-organised robbery, the perpetrators cut through metal security grating to smash the window of an on-site storage room.

An assessment of the site suggests they exited through a locked gate, using bolt cutters to remove the lock.

Newcastle council said its back-to-base security alarm was tripped about 1.30am, with the first council staffer on site about 1.45am.

When the ranger arrived, there was no sign of the perpetrators.

Among the haul of reptiles were two frilled-neck lizards, two shingle-back lizards, a central netted dragon, two Woma pythons, four central bearded dragons, two spotted pythons and two olive pythons.

BRAZEN: The theft of 15 reptiles has seen the cancellation of Blackbutt Reserve's popular reptile show. Picture: Marina Neil

BRAZEN: The theft of 15 reptiles has seen the cancellation of Blackbutt Reserve's popular reptile show. Picture: Marina Neil

One of the pythons is three metres long.

“This was a group effort,” Blackbutt Reserve co-ordinator Brad West told the Newcastle Herald.

“There is no way they’d be able to get all those reptiles out in such a short amount of time with only one person.”

The Newcastle robbery comes after a separate reptile heist on the Central Coast last week.

The Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park, at Calga, reported that two pythons and two rock dragons were missing from its facility.

Investigators will determine if the robberies are linked and illegal wildlife trading is feared.

The reptiles have a combined value of $10,000, according to the council. 

Mr West said Blackbutt’s employees and wildlife volunteers were “distraught” at news of the robbery, with daily reptile shows cancelled indefinitely.

“For someone to just take them like that, it’s a low act,” he said, adding that the stress of the robbery could endanger the health of the animals.

“These animals need proper care and need to be brought back immediately.”

The most distressing part, Newcastle council chief executive Jeremy Bath said, was that the thieves had deprived the city’s children of school holiday fun. “When you steal from Blackbutt, you are stealing from the kids of Newcastle,” he said.

Mr Bath pleaded with the people involved to come forward. 

“There is someone who knows something,” he said. “Return these animals, no questions asked.”

Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000


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