Durban - A Koi hobbyist is considering closing shop after 140 of his prized fish were stolen and some of the ponds damaged at his Athlone Park home near eManzimtoti at the weekend.
Bruce White, 65, a member of the South African Koi Keepers Society KwaZulu-Natal branch, was alerted to the theft on Saturday by his gardener, who saw two ponds had been drained.
White said his heart sank when he found that the ponds had gaping holes in their sides while the lids of others had been removed.
Draining the ponds would have made it easier for the thieves to catch the fish.
White said it was the first theft at his Churchill Road home in 25 years.
He grows koi fish and selects them for shows, as well as selling them to the public from home.
He feeds the fish and inspects the ponds twice daily.
White’s back yard, where his fish ponds are situated, is next to the N2 southbound freeway.
He suspects the thieves parked their vehicle on the side of the freeway and climbed over his fence.
“This was a well-planned, premeditated incident. To move that number of fish you have to know what you are doing and have the correct equipment,” he said.
About 140 fish ranging in size from 10cm to more than a half a metre were stolen from 10 ponds. The retail value of the fish is estimated at R45 000. White estimated the ponds would cost R10 000 to repair.
“My hobby is what I live for. I would like to think I have fish blood running through my veins,” he said, but added: “I am contemplating discontinuing the sale of fish.
“It is disheartening what happened. I will not stock up and get ripped off again.”
White said he kept his show koi in a separate pond outside his front door.
He first became interested in koi while living in Pretoria in 1976. He moved to Athlone Park in 1988 and continued growing and selling them.
He said the profit margin was minimal after monthly expenses, including fish food, electricity and water bills.
“The hobby pays for itself. It was hard work building the 10 ponds,” he said.
White said that while “a few suspects come to mind”, it would be difficult to prove that the fish belonged to him.
“That is the dilemma I am left with.”
White and his wife, Merle, are also avid pet lovers.
They have show cats, a green iguana, three hedgehogs, an albino reptile and two Brazilian rainbow boa snakes.
A case of theft and damage to property has been opened at eManzimtoti police station.