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Sometime between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday an unknown criminal brazenly snatched a Humboldt penguin known as Number 53 from its enclosure. The peak-hour theft wasn't noticed until a routine afternoon headcount, by which stage the South American penguin was long gone.

By Thursday afternoon the flightless bird was found dead, discarded in a car park. 

"The case of our missing penguin could not have taken a worse turn," said Park Director Joachim Költzsch.

"All of us, especially the keepers who have taken care of the animal every day, are shaken. Shattered over its death, but also shaken that someone could have so little respect a living creature."

Zoo officials ruled out an attack by foxes or other predators and said there was no way the juvenile penguin escaped of its own accord. So suspicions fell onto criminal activity.

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