Brazil's federal police are investigating the disappearance of seven albino alligators from the UFMT (Federal University of Mato Grosso State) in Cuiabá, the capital of that midwest state. It was only on Wednesday, January 2, that a zookeeper noticed the disappearance of the alligators when he went to feed them. They had been last fed two days earlier.
According to biologist Itamar Assumpção, the zoo director, each one of these rare animals is worth about 17,000 reais (US$ 9,662).
"The zoo administration could not tell us exactly when the alligators vanished from the place," said Ana Flávia Alves de Melo, the police chief in charge of the case. And she added: "The first informations we have show that there was no signs of forcible entrance."
Melo believes that the rarity of the animals may hinder the investigations. "Just as the number of possible alligators' receivers is smaller, the investigation of the case can be complicated due to the very small circle of people involved."
With the young alligators gone – they were 2 years old in average – the Mato Grosso college zoo was left with only one 100% albino alligator. The place still has, however, 43 half-breed alligators.
Authorities say Brazil accounts for about 10% of the illegal animal trade around the world. They warn that the stole animals probably would not survive in the wild because their lack of coloring would make it extremely hard for them to escape from predators.
The police believe that the extremely rare alligators might be sold abroad or to powerful animal smugglers in Brazil.
800 animals of 79 species roam in the UFMT zoo's 11-hectare park. The state of Mato Grosso, which is house to the Pantanal, has more than 50 animals which are threatened with extinction.
The UFMT's zoo is believed to be the only one, inside a public university in Brazil, to breed albino alligators in captivity.