Authorities and wildlife officials are desperately searching for three rare river otters who vanished from a North Carolina sanctuary Sunday.
Animal Ed. Ventures workers arrived at the park Monday morning to find the gates to the otter enclosure were open and the animals – named Sigmund, Nessy and Ned – were missing, WTVD reported.
The gates were double-checked before workers went home for the night, sanctuary director Cory Freeman told the station.
“The latch to their enclosure was completely intact,” Freeman told WTVD. “There was no failure. This is a latch that can only be manipulated manually with a level of dexterity.”
She added that a high-pitch noise was heard at around 2 a.m.
Freeman said she’s not sure why someone would steal the otters.
“We don’t know if this is motivated by money, we don’t know if this was motivated by an extremist group that feels like all animals should be free,” she told WTVD. “Are they being properly cared for? Does this person even know what they eat and what they need? They’re not a creature that you can just put in a cage….It’s devastating.”
The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation into the otters’ disappearance.
Animal Ed. Ventures is located in Coats, located about 28 miles south of Raleigh. It is home to about 200 animals.