On Saturday, July 28th one of our employees reported seeing suspicious activity from a group of three people near one of our interactive shark touch tanks. Our General Manager, Jen Spellman, caught up with the suspects in the parking lot and was denied access to searching the vehicle and the stroller.
Our 16-inch long Horn Shark was stolen from our tide pool exhibit while the attendant was assisting other guests. Surveillance video shows the suspects staking out the pool for over an hour for their opportunity.
Surveillance footage also indicates that the suspects brought in a net to capture our shark. However, they didn’t have a means of transporting her other than that, so they had to find something. After grabbing our shark and placing her into a wet towel, they entered into one of our back rooms where they took a bucket that was half-full of bleach cleaning solution (used for disinfecting our tools) and dumped it all into our cold water exhibit filtration system. This caused harm to multiple tanks, all of the tanks on that system, it is all connected. Including our seahorses, baby seahorses, jellies, and more. They then took the sanitation bucket to aide in the transportation of the shark into the stroller, quickly exited up the stairs and out into the parking lot.
We appreciate our hard-working, intelligent, and fast husbandry staff lead by Chris Conk, Husbandry Director of the Aquarium, for quickly noticing something was wrong, discovering what happened, and coming up with a plan of action. They used Sodium Thiosulfate, or STS for short, which counteracts bleach immediately. The staff quickly found the issue, resolved it, while some other members of our team went out to find the suspects. The owner of the San Antonio Aquarium, Ammon Covino says, “Had they noticed it even minutes later, many of those animals would not have survived. Life is very delicate. They honestly did a tremendous job; I am so proud of the work they have done.”
We worked closely with Leon Valley and San Antonio Police Departments to recover our shark and apprehend the suspects. They located our shark, brought our Assistant Husbandry Director, Jamie Shank, there to identify Miss Helen and bring her back with us. Ammon Covino the owner of the San Antonio Aquarium wants to publicly show his appreciation to them for all the hard work they did in locating our shark and allowing us to bring Miss Helen the Horn Shark back home. We value the lives of all of our animals and take pride in the care that we can give them, as well as the education that we can provide for the general public about these treasured species. We are astonished but so grateful that she survived this catastrophic event. This guy knew what he was doing, or she wouldn’t have survived.
Last night, on July 30th, Jamie Shank, our assistant Husbandry Director was escorted by officers to the culprits home to identify Miss Helen. Jamie made a statement to the investigators she suspects that the man who stole our shark visited our Aquarium about a month ago posed as an Instant Ocean employee. Instant Ocean is our supplier for salt, he offered to do salt and water testing on all of our exhibits. The man told us that the company he worked for, Instant Ocean, had sent out bad batches of salt so it was necessary to test our water. Our staff informed him that we haven’t had any issues with our systems chemical levels, but allowed him to come in any way to be safe. So he spent hours with Jamie on a Monday about a month ago collecting samples from our tanks to take tests. We believe that the root of his plan was to get a behind the scenes look so he could figure out what to steal and the best way to do it.
Ammon Covino is credited for videos and photos. Two of these videos are new to the public and have not been released yet, it is Jamie Shank at the culprits house. We would appreciate if all of our staff is credited in the videos, and that Ammon Covino is credited for providing the footage.
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