BUSHNELL (FOX 13) - One of the rarest reptiles in the world called Sumter County home -- until this week. The owner of the white alligator says the animal is worth thousands of dollars. He also says the person or people who took it also set a fire that killed more than 40 other alligators and crocodiles.
Robbie Keszey became known as the man with the white alligator, Snowball. The gator has a strong presence on social media in part thanks to a Discovery Channel show called “Swamp Brothers.”
“Everyone knows how many animals [I have] from the TV show. [It is] a well-known fact that we had Snowball and he's that rare,” Kenszey said.
He thinks Snowball’s rarity was the motivation behind it being taken.
Snowball shared a building with 43 smaller alligators and crocodiles, which were kept in small pools of water.
“What they didn't account for is the crocodiles are in water. Water doesn't burn, they boiled these animals to death. They died a horrible death,” Kenszey said.
Now the search is on for Snowball and the arsonist who took the white gator.
Kenszey says snowball is not albino. Rather, Snowball is a leucistic alligator, characterized by white skin and blue eyes.
“There’s no other alligator in the world that looks like Snowball. Each leucistic looks different,” Kenszey said.
He estimates his losses at between $150,000 and $200,000. Kenszey did not have insurance and, with dozens of animals dead and the most valuable missing, he holds out hope Snowball is found unharmed.
“The hope is they can find Snowball before he's smuggled out of the country or becomes part of a private collection,” he said.
Keszey added he's had animals at his farm for 20 years. He was charged with conspiracy several years ago involving exotic animals but says a former business partner was to blame.
Anyone with information about this case, or contact is made with this animal, is asked to contact Sumter County Sheriff's Detective Chris Merritt at 352-793-2621 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477).