£45,000 reptiles stolen from shop
Dozens of snakes and lizards worth £45,000 have been stolen from a reptile shop.
Bosses at Lost World Reptiles in Teynham, near Sittingbourne, Kent, said they were "heartbroken" at having to start the business from scratch again.
Police believe the thieves were not opportunists and may have visited the shop before stealing a total of 66 creatures between 4.30pm on January 3 and 9am the following day.
Most of the snakes are Royal Pythons of different colours and range in length from 2.5 feet to 3.5 feet. They can fetch anything from £350 to £2,500 and are not poisonous.
John Harrison, who helps run the shop with his son Karl, 35, said many of the snakes were imported as eight-week-old hatchlings from the United States and the past two years had been spent raising them into juveniles.
Mr Harrison, 58, said: "We are absolutely heartbroken at the burglary. Such a lot of work has gone into this shop and now we are going to have to start all over again.
"These snakes and lizards need specialist care and our greatest fear is that whoever has taken them won't look after them properly and will struggle to find outlets for them and they are just going to die, which would be a terrible shame."
The three lizards which were stolen were rare Kimberley Rock Monitors, each about two feet long and worth £495 apiece.
Detective Inspector Emma Banks, from Kent Police, said: "This doesn't appear to be the work of opportunist thieves and it's highly likely that whoever stole the snakes and lizards has experience in handling reptiles and had previously been into the shop."
Anyone with information is asked to call Sittingbourne police on 01795 419182 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.