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[whitespace] Seven exotic birds stolen from local bird store

Cupertino--Abby, a lilac-crowned Amazon, was Gretta Roberts' companion for seven years, but all of that changed last month when Abby was stolen from her cage in the front lobby of the De Anza Pet Salon in broad daylight.

To compound matters, six other exotic birds were stolen from the Exotic Bird Store, located adjacent to the Pet Salon, on July 30, just two weeks after the burglary at the Pet Salon. Two of those birds, were also owned by Roberts.

"I have a connection with my mom through [my birds]," Roberts said. "I don't have my mom anymore and without them, I no longer have the connection with my mom. I feel empty now."

Exotic birds are hand-raised in captivity and can live up to 70 years. "They are lovable to humans and it's a privilege to have them," Roberts said. "We've taken the wild birds and raised them in captivity."

During the first robbery, Roberts was in the Pet Salon when an Asian male entered the store carrying a small child. Roberts believed he wanted to show the child some birds.

It was a slow day and he didn't give her any reason to be suspicious, Roberts said. "Abby made a little noise and I looked over," she said. "He seemed to be talking to her. The next thing I know, both were gone."

The man knew what he was doing because Abby doesn't go to strangers willingly and he knew how to grab her face so she didn't bite him, Roberts said.

Following Abby's disappearance, Roberts stayed close to the Pet Salon and went as far as to spend the next few days sleeping in the store. "Call it women's intuition," she said, "but I knew he would come back."

Roxann Jones, manager of the Pet Salon and the Exotic Bird Store, was in the bird store the day before it was burglarized. An Asian male entered the store and was looking around when she turned her back to him for a moment. When she turned back, she watched him step down from the ledge near the air conditioner and exit the store.

"I thought he was putting back a wire that had gotten loose," Jones said. "The day after the burglary, I learned what he did was he cut the wire to the burglar alarm."

On the night of the burglary, Ed Kato, owner of P.J. Mulligan's, was working late. About 10 minutes before he left at 1:30 a.m., he heard a loud noise, but thought it was the construction crews repaving Stevens Creek Boulevard. When he exited the bar, he saw an Asian male move to the driver's seat of a silver Toyota Previa van parked directly in front of the Exotic Bird Store.

Kato thought it was suspicious that the man was parked in an empty parking lot, so he wrote down the van's license plate number.

"I learned later that the noise I heard was him trying to drill the lock," Kato said.

Approximately 15 minutes later, P.J. Mulligan's cleaning service arrived and saw the door to the bird shop had been smashed in with a rock. He called the sheriff's deputies and returned to the parking lot to see a silver van--matching the description of the one Kato saw--drive out with its lights off.

The six stolen birds are valued at $7,000 total and are all South American birds.

"The birds did not go willingly," Roberts said. "There were bird feathers, tail feathers, everywhere. He didn't take any toys or supplies."

He obviously knew what he was doing, Roberts said. The burglar left the more expensive but louder cockatoos, valued at $2,000 each. Roberts believes he would have taken the macaws, valued at $1,000 each, if he had not been caught.

The prime suspect in the burglaries is the Asian male spotted by Roberts, Jones and Kato, but authorities are still determining if all three witnesses saw the same man.

"The day the guy took the bird from [the Pet Salon], Gretta saw him, I didn't," Jones said. "The day he went into the bird store, I was the only one who saw him. We don't know if it's the same person."

Sheriff's Detective Patricia O'Donovan is awaiting the arrival of the suspect's driver's license picture from the Department of Motor Vehicles to do a photo lineup. "I called the DMV and it turns out our suspect and a woman have the same driver's license number and the same last name so I got the female's picture," she said. "They are sending me more pictures and I want to take it out to the Pet Salon and have [Roberts and Jones] look at it."

Sheriff's detectives are also attempting to track the man to the East San Jose address listed on his driver's license, but the residents of the house say the person hasn't lived there for five years, O'Donovan said.

"I also noticed that one of the plates of the van had been reported stolen a day before [the burglary]," she added. "How convenient. They could say it was my plates, but not his van."

The burglaries at the De Anza Pet Salon and Exotic Bird Store are somewhat similar to one that took place in April at Critters Corner in San Jose.

It was around 5 or 6 p.m. in the evening when the store was busy when an Asian male with a child wearing a baseball cap entered the store. The surveillance cameras positioned throughout the store captured the man's image as he wandered around.

"You could see him walking through the store," said Glenn Ferreira, owner of Critters Corner. "He was looking for an opportune time for when he could actually get into the case. I could see him kind of standing around loitering and looking for when my people were busy and occupied elsewhere."

Roberts has hired a private investigator to locate her birds. All of the birds--her pets as well as the ones for sale--have a microchip in their breast bones for identification purposes.

"I toss and turn at night worrying about them," Roberts said. "You want the best for them."

She has checked local pet stores, bird stores and flea markets. Flyers are posted at several pet stores.

"I don't think [the burglar] has the birds anymore," Roberts said. "I think he's moved them. We're still looking for them out of the country."

Exotic birds are often moved out of the country via the black market.

"They move the birds out in cars," Roberts said. "They put the birds in pipes and stick them in doors of cars. They lose 20 percent of the birds moving them."
Michelle Ku

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Web extra to the August 26-September 1, 1999 issue of Metro.

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