March 31, 2008 / 3:53 PM / 12 years ago

Crocodile stolen from aquarium

Dozens of salt water crocodiles each measuring over a metre (3.3 feet) bask in a pen at Johnstone River Crocodile Farm in Innisfail, Queensland, Australia, August 1, 2006. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

OSLO (Reuters) - A thief walked unnoticed out of a Norwegian aquarium carrying a crocodile at the weekend and now risks losing a finger or two, the head of the aquarium said on Monday.

“I think whoever did this knew what they were doing,” Bergen aquarium director Kees Oscar Ekeli told Reuters, suggesting the young crocodile was smuggled out in a bag during the busiest hours on Saturday.

The stolen reptile, named “Taggen” (Spike), is a 70 centimeters (2.3 feet) long smooth-fronted caiman also known as Schneider’s dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus Trigonatus).

Taggen eats “a good mix of fish and meat” and can grow to be about 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long. “It has a solid bite. Considering it is not bigger than it is, you could lose a few fingers, but no vital organs,” Ekeli said.

It is normally found in much warmer habitats in South America and is one of the world’s smallest species of crocodile.

Ekeli feared that the four-year-old would have poor chances of surviving outside its habitat in the aquarium, and said it would probably die from stress.

The theft was immediately reported to the police. “We have offered a reward of 25,000 Norwegian crowns ($4,900) to anyone who can give us a tip that leads to finding the crocodile,” Ekeli said.

Reporting by Aasa Christine Stoltz; editing by Keith Weir

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