Thursday, April 7, 2005

Tourists Patrick Williams, left, and his sister Holly of Spokane, Wash., chatted yesterday in front of the endangered giant clam exhibit at the Waikiki Aquarium. Several juvenile giant clams were stolen out of an outdoor shallow water exhibit at the aquarium late last week.

7 rare clams stolen
from Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium is making a plea for the return of seven rare giant clams that were stolen last week from an outdoor tank, no questions asked.

"These clams were truly spectacular," said Andrew Rossiter, Waikiki Aquarium director. "The colors on them were so iridescent."

The clams are listed as threatened by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to protect them from over-exploitation.

Rossiter said there is no way to determine the value of a threatened species.

The seven were among 44 giant clams on display in a new exhibit that opened March 19. Employees reported them missing Saturday.

"The saddest thing is the exhibit, which is the only one of its kind in the whole of America, was built at a low level especially so children can have access to it. Now they're denied that possibility," Rossiter said.

The remaining clams were taken off display and placed with 20 that were held in reserve until a new barrier is built around the exhibit to prevent future thefts.

Although they are called giant clams, the thieves took clams ranging in size from 1 to 4 inches across, which are the most beautiful of the collection, Rossiter said.

Only one of the eight species of giant clam can grow up to 4 feet across and weigh 500 pounds. Waikiki Aquarium has six of the eight species. All are on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species threatened lists.

The United States was the first signatory to the convention's treaty. Possessing or importing species on the convention's threatened lists without a federal license carries a fine of up to $200,000 and three years in prison.

Rossiter believes the clams were stolen by a hobbyist who took them for his home aquarium or to sell. He does not believe they were taken by an employee.

The aquarium has security cameras, but they did not capture the theft, Rossiter said.

"It's somewhat embarrassing that these were stolen," he said. "We've got adequate security here, but if somebody wants to steal something, they'll find a way. I think the saddest thing, it's a betrayal of trust that we've shown to people."

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