(OKINAWA, Japan) -- Officials suspect a thief was behind the abrupt disappearance of a bale of turtles from a zoo in Japan.
The Okinawa Zoo and Museum told Agence France-Presse that they reported over 60 rare turtles missing from their enclosure.
"We feed them twice a week and a keeper noticed their number was clearly low," Kozue Ohgimi, zoo section chief, told AFP.
According to Ohgimi, the nets that secure the housing for the animals "were loose enough to enable an adult to sneak into the area" and that cable ties were removed in multiple spots.
The zoo said that 64 turtles disappeared in total, including 15 Ryukyu leaf turtles and 49 yellow-margined box turtles.
The small-shelled reptiles measure just under 8 inches in length and both types are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' threatened species list.
Japan's cultural affairs agency has listed both species as "natural treasures" which means that they are banned from commercial trade.
Local police are investigating but officials fear that the rare turtles may have been stolen to be sold as exotic pets on the black market, according to AFP.
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