Armed Thieves Steal Rare Birds from Nicaraguan Zoo

Five armed, hooded men broke into a Nicaraguan zoo and ran off with 15 endangered birds and a raccoon, officials said Saturday.

National police are investigating Friday's robbery of a raccoon, five bicolored toucans, nine parrots and a macaw that were being rehabilitated in the zoo's rescue center, Managua zoo director Marina Arguello told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The suspects broke into the rear of the zoo, overpowered a security guard and headed directly for the rescue center, where they seized the animals, all of which are species in danger of extinction, Arguello said.

"The toucans, whose colors are of an unparalleled beauty, had been prepared for reproduction," she added.

Arguello called the loss "incalculable" but said the birds have a black-market value of up to $1,000 each.