British police on the hunt for stolen rare shark

LONDON Tue Jul 29, 2008 11:03am EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A rare shark was being hunted by police on Tuesday after it was stolen from an aquarium.

Imported from Indonesia four years ago, the 2 foot (0.696 meter) long, mottled brown, marble catshark -- Atelomycterus Macleayi -- is the female half of the only active breeding pair of its kind in Britain.

"As a breeding pair the male and female are worth 50,000 pounds ($99,460)," aquarium owner Peter Newman, 68, told Reuters, following the shark's theft over the weekend from his Farnborough aquarium in Hampshire.

"On its own the female might be worth 10,000 pounds," added Newman. "We think whoever stole it might come back and try and take the male or we'll get a ransom demand for the female.

"They obviously came prepared as to take a shark you need a net, a bag full of water and a polystyrene box. I think it must have been someone who had been in the shop before and knew where it was kept."

Since arriving in England, the stolen shark has had an adventurous life, surviving electrocution after a crab bit through a power cable, before giving birth to six baby sharks earlier this year.

"I'm very attached to her," said Newman. "I could look for another female but it's difficult as I'm not sure it would mate with the male.

"I'm interested in shark scientific research as I've been involved in conservation issues in the Philippines and Indonesia where a lot of fisherman use cyanide to kill sharks."

Earlier on Tuesday, Hampshire police issued an appeal for information.

"We believe this may have been a targeted burglary of a shark that is extremely rare in the UK," they said in a statement.

"The victim is desperate for the fish to be returned and we urge anyone with information about the burglary to contact us.

For wider coverage of crime in Britain click here

(Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato)

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