Dozens of animals were taken from a wildlife sanctuary in Miami-Dade, Florida after a fake Craigslist ad encouraged people to take the animals from their pens.
The advertisement read, “Free exotic animals. We’re a sanctuary going out of business. Go around back and help yourself,” according to The Guardian.
After the ad was posted, the animals — which included seven ring-tailed lemurs, five marmosets, four monkeys, seven birds and 13 tortoises — disappeared between late Saturday night and early Sunday morning from the We Care Wildlife Sanctuary in Miami.
Cindy Robert, a volunteer told the outlet, “We’ve been violated. I don’t think these animals are going to be taken care of. The stress alone could give some of them heart attacks.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that whoever took the animals unscrewed a fence when they were not able to cut the lock.
Some of the animals that went missing are on medications, a volunteer told the Associated Press. They fear some of them could die.
Robert said the person or people who took the animals “knew exactly what they wanted,” adding that the combined value of all the animals stolen could run to the “thousands” of dollars according to The Guardian.
“They left the raccoons, they left the horses, they left the goats, and there were some birds nesting in the tree that they didn’t see because it was pitch black,” Robert said. “We did get to keep those, at least.”
She explained the people responsible “had to chase the animals around and net them, and put them in cages and that puts them under even more stress.”
Robert told the outlet the sanctuary’s Facebook website was hacked a week ago and suspects it was a lead up to the fake Craigslist ad that claimed they were going out of business.
She also said the intruder likely knew the center was under construction because they are expanding the sanctuary and that the security cameras were not installed.
The Miami-Dade police department is currently investigating, according to the outlet. A $1,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can help the owners of the sanctuary return or find the animals that went missing.
“The owners can’t even talk about it, they’re so upset,” Robert said. “The two of them are just basket cases.”
She continued, “One can’t stop crying, he’s so attached to these animals. It’s a huge labor of love to these animals to protect them.”