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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Aquarium's giant clams back 'cold, but ... healthy'

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

The case of the giant clam caper is closed.

Seven rare giant clams are back where they belong at the Waikiki Aquarium after being stolen April 2 from an outside viewing tank. Aquarium officials suspect the clams, which come from the Marshall Islands, Fiji and Palau, were heisted by a home fish-tank collector.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Someone returned the seven magnificently colored clams on Saturday and a security guard discovered them inside the jellyfish theater at the Waikiki Aquarium. They were in a round plastic container filled with seawater, stashed inside a plain plastic bag.

"They were cold, but otherwise healthy," said Andrew Rossiter, aquarium director. "Six are in reasonable condition, one is off color, but we have the expertise here and the resources. If we can save it, we will."

The clams were stolen April 2 from an outside viewing tank that is designed low to the ground for children.

The aquarium has filed a police report, but will hold to its decision not to press charges and provide complete amnesty to the thieves, Rossiter said.

The aquarium suspected that the clams were heisted by a home fish-tank collector and not for the black market, or else they would have been gone by now, he said.

A new security system will be built around the exhibit at a cost of about $7,000.

"We don't have any idea how they were stolen," Rossiter said. "We are redesigning the security around that exhibit. We have a meeting about planning and then have to find the money in our budget to address the problem."

While more stringent security measures will be placed on the clam tank, Rossiter did not believe the aquarium would restrict bags and backpacks.

The exhibit was on the lawn in a free standing tank. The 44 clams in the tank are registered as a threatened species. The seven that were stolen ranged in size from 1 1/2 inches to 4 inches across, and are about one to two years old, Rossiter said.

The clams, when mature reach a size of no more than 18 inches. But it's their iridescent emerald green, sapphire blue and orange topaz colors that attract attention.

A local aquarium dealer put the price of the clams at $3,000 to $5,000 each, Rossiter said. They exist in Hawaiian waters, but are found mainly in waters off Micronesia.

"The value to us is the education to the community and the children," he said.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.