SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a rare alligator stolen from a reptile sanctuary that was robbed and set on fire.
Deputies and firefighters were called to a building fire Friday night on Southwest 52nd Terrace in Bushnell.
Online records show the building is a sanctuary known as Animal Crossings of Florida, which belongs to the stars of “Swamp Brothers” on the Discovery Channel.
When firefighters doused the flames, deputies realized a 2-year-old Leucistic alligator known as Snowball, who was housed there with dozens of other reptiles, was missing.
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The state Fire Marshal’s Office believes the building was burglarized first and then set on fire after Snowball was stolen, deputies said.
Robbie Keszey, who owns the farm, told Channel 9 he thinks the culprit entered through a back window.
"You go through so many emotions," Keszey said. "I was so devastated, then I went through anger, then I went through just wanting Snowball back, then I went through just wanting to lynch the person who did this."
There were 43 other alligators and crocodiles in the building at the time. Deputies said they all died in the fire.
"I used (Snowball) for educational shows. I always went into this spiel how all of us are different on the world. None of us are the same," Keszey said. "You can't sell the animal. This animal is known throughout the world."
Deputies said the gator is one of only 10 in the world and is worth about $100,000.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 800-423-8477.
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