A man accused of stealing a shark from a Texas aquarium has said he did so in an attempt to save the creature.
CCTV footage shows a man lifting the 40cm (16in) long horn shark, named Miss Helen, from a petting tank at San Antonio Aquarium, before making off with her in a pushchair.
Anthony Shannon, who has been charged with theft, claims he is an “activist not a criminal” and was compelled to liberate the sea creature over fears her welfare was being endangered by inadequate tank conditions.
But the 38-year-old now faces charges over stealing the fish and taking her to his home, where she was kept in a tank before being tracked down and returned to the aquarium by authorities.
Miss Helen was reported to be one of around 25 sharks being kept in large pools at Mr Shannon’s home, along with an unknown number of crabs.
The accused told a reporter that the theft was “regretful”, but suggested he could justify such behaviour if it was an “emergency” for the sea creature concerned.
“I have a mission,” he said.
“It’s not a mission to steal for profit, it’s a mission just to give the fish a better health.”
Police chief Joseph Salvaggio said Shannon had “a lot of different marine animals” in his home and “very much knew what he was doing”.
Before the theft earlier this week Shannon said he had posed as a salt distributor to gain access to the aquarium and took water samples.
Days later he was captured on CCTV fishing Miss Helen from the tank, then wrapping her in blanket and placing her in a pushchair with the assistance of another man and woman.
The aquarium said staff had noticed something was awry, and their suspicion was confirmed when the pushchair was moved away “leaking water”.
Miss Helen was retrieved in a healthy condition to the relief of employees, who denied accusations the aquarium kept animals in inadequate conditions.
“We do daily tests of our water throughout the aquarium and show that everything is within normal parameters on the day Helen went missing,” it said in a statement.
As part of the celebrations marking the return of the fish, the San Antonio aquarium offered free feeding coins for visitors who mentioned “Miss Helen is home” at the front desk.
In an interview with local news Shannon said he would not refrain from stealing sharks if he deemed it necessary in the future.