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Invisible zoo cited for fraud

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4 January 2007


An empty cage at the Big Apple Menagerie: leprodopilosaurus' home away from home

New York, NY - It may have seemed like a good idea at the time to Zoe Namal, but it sounded a little too good to New York City’s bunco squad, who cited the out-of-work zookeeper for fraud following a recent weeks-long investigation of her Big Apple Reptile Menagerie.

“She charged a pretty stiff admission price,” Detective C. Noel Villa told The New York Times, “but the $50 seemed reasonable, considering the nature of the fauna she said she was exhibiting.”

In all, there were approximately 100 cages, each of which was home to an exotic reptile. There was a brief description of each animal, Villa said, recalling one that seemed especially unusual to him:

"The leprodopilosaurus eats only iron, and it shi--I mean, defecates--magnets. It lives in an aluminum can that it half-buries in the sands of the Nubian desert, coming out only for half a minute during molting season, when it sheds its skin, grows a new tail, and has its claws painted. During its rare outings, it may wear a scarf over its fiery red-orange mane.”

“I used to go there after work, nearly every day,” Louise Lifeless told Times reporter Ralph Apathy, “but I never saw any of the reptiles. I mentioned this to Ms. Namal, but she said the animals were ‘shy and reclusive.’”

Had Dr. Liz Ard, a zoologist at the State University of New York (SUNY) not visited the zoo, the menagerie might still be operating today, but, when the scientist read the descriptions, he knew he’d been defrauded, and he contacted the police. “I’m a cryptozoologist,” Ard said, “which is a member of the lunatic fringe who studies imaginary beasties like the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, the X-men’s Wolverine, and Monica Lewinsky. I knew there was no such animal as a leprodopilosaurus that has its nails done.”

No animals have ever been seen by any of the zoo’s visitors, Villa said, “because there are none to see: the cages are all empty. The perpetrator, Ms. Namal, was making a monkey out of all the people she fleeced, including me.”

“Despite the detective’s mixed metaphor,” a Times reporter admitted, “his account of the matter is essentially correct: the menagerie was just another way to separate the gullible from their greenbacks.”

“He should know,” Villa declared. “He paid to see the exhibits half a dozen times.”

The city has seized the menagerie’s property and is auctioning it next month.

“Maybe I’ll buy it,” Ard said, “and open an invisible zoo of my own.”

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