San Francisco — A nationwide search is under way for two koalas stolen from the San Francisco Zoo by a burglar who apparently broke through a sun roof to heist the fragile animals that curators fear could die within days if not cared for properly.
A zookeeper discovered the koalas Pat, 15, and her 7-year-old daughter Leanne missing when she checked the Koala House exhibit at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Koalas have a highly specialized diet, virtually no body fat, and respond badly to stress, experts said. Worse yet, Pat has had serious medical problems: last year she was treated for an infected eye and cataracts, and recently her caregivers noticed a potentially cancerous growth on her face.
"That's my greatest concern, that whoever has these animals is not going to know how to take care of them and they're going to decline very rapidly," said Michele Rudovsky, the zoo's associate curator of mammals.
Alerts have been sent to all U.S. airports and customs inspection stations at border crossings around the country. The FBI also has been notified, said Inspector Lou Bronfeld of the San Francisco Police Department burglary detail.
When zookeeper Nancy Rumsey arrived at the Koala House a building that has housed five koalas, Pat, Leanna and three males she saw a filter box outside a driveway that didn't belong there. She immediately counted the koalas. Both females were missing.