SNAKES and lizards worth £45,000 have been stolen from a shop in Teynham, near Sittingbourne.
Sixty-six snakes and three lizards were taken from Lost World Reptiles in London Road between 4.30pm on Bank Holiday Monday, January 3 and 9am the following day.
Karl Harrison opened the specialist shop with help from his dad John, who said: "We imported many of the snakes as eight-week-old hatchlings from the USA and we have spent the last two-and-a-half years raising them into the juvenile snakes they are today.
"We are absolutely heart-broken at the burglary. Such a lot of work has gone into this shop and now we are going to have to start all over again.
"These snakes and lizards need specialist care and our greatest fear is that whoever has taken them won’t look after them properly and will struggle to find outlets for them and they are just going to die."
Most of the snakes stolen are Royal Pythons. They range in length from two-and-a-half feet to three-and-a-half feet and from £350 to £2,500 in price.
The most unusual is a pure white Royal Python with blue eyes and the biggest is a Red Blood Python which is three-and-a-half feet long and 4ins in diameter.
The three lizards taken were rare Kimberley Rock Monitors, each about 2ft and worth £495 apiece.
Detective Inspector Emma Banks said: "This doesn't appear to be the work of opportunist thieves and it's highly likely that whoever stole the snakes and lizards has experience in handling reptiles and had previously been into the shop.
"We are appealing for anyone who saw anyone acting suspiciously in the Teynham area that night, or the vehicle the offenders could have used, to contact us.
"We are also urging anyone who might be offered one of the snakes or lizards for sale to speak to us immediately. We are keen to bring the offenders to justice but the welfare of these reptiles is also a major concern."
Anyone with information should call Sittingbourne Police Station on 01795 419182 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting crime reference CY/000188/11.