BUSHNELL, Florida — An extremely rare white alligator was stolen from an animal sanctuary and 43 other reptiles were then killed in an arson fire that appears to have been set to to cover the thieves’ tracks, investigators say.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s office says the blaze broke out Friday evening at a crocodile and alligator sanctuary run by by Robbie Keszey and his brother, Stephen, who hosted the Discovery Channel reality show “Swamp Brothers,” in 2011 and 2012.
After firefighters brought the fire under control, they discovered 43 crocodiles and alligators had died, and a rare white Leucistic alligator named Snowy, had gone missing.
“Based on items observed at the scene, it appears that the building was burglarized first and then set on fire after the theft of the rare alligator,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Snowy is believed to be one of only 10 Leucistic alligators in the world and could be worth up to $100,000, Keszey said. They are like albino alligators in that they are white in color, but their eyes are blue, which makes them significantly more rare.
Despite its rarity and value Mr. Keszey said that the 3-year-old reptile would be very hard to sell.
“Everyone in the world knows this gator,” he said. “Whoever has it has no outlet to get rid of it.”
“To me, he was priceless,” Keszey added. “Snowball was like my best friend. I’d handle him every day. We just want Snowball back.”