HYDE PARK — Five koi have gone missing from the Japanese garden in Jackson Park, and the Chicago Park District thinks they were stolen.
Cathy Breitenbach, director of cultural and natural resources for the Park District, said Wednesday that five of about 20 fish in the pond in the Garden of the Phoenix on Wooded Island were stolen.
“I believe someone went in there when they weren’t supposed to, and the fence had to be repaired,” Breitenbach said. “We assume it was theft because someone broke in through the fence.”
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She said she was uncertain of the date the fish were taken, but the fence was found broken in recent weeks and repaired, which led to the discovery that the fish were missing.
The Park District believes the fish were taken on the weekend of July 30-31, Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Park District, said late Wednesday.
Breitenbach said the Park District didn't know why someone would take the fish.
“Someone wanted them for themselves, I guess,” Breitenbach said.
She said fish have been taken before, but not in the last few months.
In 2014, thieves cleared out the garden’s pond, stealing 24 fish that were about 15 years old on average, leaving behind a few of the youngest fish. At the time, Park District officials said they believed the fish, which can be worth thousands of dollars when mature, were stolen to be resold.
The most recent theft happened when the garden was largely inaccessible behind locked gates put up by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect a habitat restoration project on the island.
Breitenbach said the Park District was thinking about security on the island, particularly as crews prepare to install a new piece of artwork by Yoko Ono at the front gates of the garden, but was not considering a security guard for the island.
She said the fish deserve protection because they take years to grow to full size and are beloved by park visitors.
Breitenbach said the fish were donated to the park.
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