COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) - A thief who stole live coral from a tank at Orange Coast College destroyed six years of labor and the fund-raising hopes of the aquarium science program.
The theft was discovered on Nov. 16. Leather, bubble, brain and other corals worth $1,000 were taken.
''We lost all of our big specimens,'' Professor Dennis Kelly said.
The aquarium science program was forced to cancel its annual open house fund-raiser, which would have raised about $1,000 to buy food for fish in other tanks, including sharks and a moray eel.
''We've had to go fishing ourselves to provide food,'' Kelly said. ''We're just praying none of the pumps breaks, because we won't have money to fix it.''
''When you steal something like that, you're not only hurting us, but you're hurting the fish and coral, too,'' student Nicole Eslinger said.
Kelly said he suspects the thief probably sold the coral to an unsuspecting private aquarium. The coral exhibit took six years to become self-sustaining.
''There's no way you could go into a store and buy coral of that size. You have to grow it for years,'' Kelly said.
A local store owner donated a leather coral after hearing about the theft. Also, a lock has been installed on the tank cover.