Dwarf Crocodile Snatch From Aquarium

(AP) A dwarf crocodile has been snatched from the Bergen aquarium by apparently knowledgeable thieves who broke into its cage and walked out with the 27-inch reptile named Taggen, the aquarium director said Monday.

"We know that somebody broke into the cage," Kees Oscar Ekeli, a marine biologist and head of the Bergen Aquarium, said by telephone. "It was almost tame. This one comes over when you open the cage, so capturing it was no big feat."

The missing four-year-old Taggen is a Paleosuchus Trigonatus, also known by the name Schneider's dwarf caiman. Ekeli said such smooth-fronted caimans are among one of the world's smallest species of crocodile, can grow to 21.5 feet, and are normally found in South America.

Police have launched an investigation, and the aquarium has offered a 25,000 kroner ($4,900) reward for the reptile's return, he said. The theft was discovered Monday, but could have taken place a day or two earlier.

Ekeli said such crocodiles would sell for about 10,000 kroner ($1,960), on the legal market, but since private ownership of such animals is banned in Norway, the black market price would be many times time higher.

The aquarium director said he was concerned for the reptile's life, since crocodiles can become fatally stressed without warm enough water and places to hide.

When it came to the thieves, Ekeli said they don't need to fear for their lives, since sharp-toothed Taggen is so small. But, he said, "they might lose a few fingers."

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