Teen Arrested in Koala Theft Now Faces Bomb, Weapons Charges

Published December 30th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

One of two teenagers charged with stealing a pair of koalas from the San Francisco Zoo will face felony weapons charges after police found a test tube of explosives, a handgun and other weapons in his home, authorities announced Friday. 

Investigators confiscated the weapons and detonated a container of potassium nitrate seized from the home of a 15-year-old suspect in the case. 

Potassium nitrate is used to make fireworks, explosives, matches, rocket propellants and fertilizers. 

The youth, who was already on probation for earlier undisclosed offenses, now faces felony charges for possession of explosives and dangerous weapons in addition to charges in connection with the koalas. 

The 15-year-old, along with a 17-year-old boy, abducted a mother and daughter pair of Australian koalas from the San Francisco Zoo, intending to give them as belated Christmas gifts to their girlfriends. 

After news of the theft was broadcast on local TV, police received an anonymous tip which led them to a San Francisco home, where the animals were found huddled in a hallway amid koala droppings and scraps of fruit. 

Apparently, the thieves had unsuccessfully tried to feed the pair, who only eat eucalyptus leaves. 

San Francisco police have said that two suspects are in custody and have been charged with burglary, possession of stolen property and grand theft. 

The marsupials -- mother Pat, 15, and daughter Leanne, 7 -- were discovered missing by their keepers early Tuesday, in a theft which garnered worldwide headlines. 

The animals, who were recovered just before dawn Thursday, appear to have suffered greatly during their abduction. 

Going without food or water for nearly a day, the animals lost about 12 percent of their 11-pound (five-kilogram) body weight, and have been exhibiting some unusual behavior, zoo officials said, including fear of loud noises and an unusually voracious appetite. 

"It will take a long time for them to recover fully," said zoo spokeswoman Nancy Chan. "We're worried about them." 

Pat, in particular, hasn't been sleeping well, said their keeper Nancy Rumsey. Normally koalas sleep between 18 and 22 hours a day, but Pat has been waking up often, appearing irritated. 

"They endured something horribly frightening, and koalas don't handle stress well," Rumsey said. 

A judge will decide Tuesday whether to keep the boys in a youth detention center until their trial or release them to the custody of their parents. 

The San Francisco Zoo is home to seven koalas, the largest collection of the mammals in North America. There are 30 koalas in captivity in the United States -- SAN FRANCISCO (AFP)  



© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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