'Priceless' Bonsai Trees Stolen From Museum In Washington State The Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Wash., is asking for help in locating two stolen bonsai. Both "priceless treasures" have a rich history going back to the World War II era.
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'Priceless' Bonsai Trees Stolen From Museum In Washington State

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'Priceless' Bonsai Trees Stolen From Museum In Washington State

'Priceless' Bonsai Trees Stolen From Museum In Washington State

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now for the story of a heist. Over the weekend, a security alarm was triggered at the Pacific Bonsai Museum just outside of Seattle.

KATHY MCCABE: At about 7 a.m. on Sunday, two thieves forced their way into the public display.

SHAPIRO: That's Kathy McCabe, the executive director at the museum, which is home to 150 bonsai trees.

MCCABE: We discovered that two trees had been stolen.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Two bonsai trees, each more than 70 years old, weighing around 50 pounds. Soon, Aarin Packard, the exhibit's curator, showed up.

AARIN PACKARD: I arrived after the police had gotten here.

MCCABE: We do have a 10-second video clip of the thieves.

PACKARD: Based on their build, it most likely were two men, fairly broad-shouldered, hoods up.

MCCABE: They picked up the trees and carried them away.

PACKARD: They had parked a vehicle. We were able to, you know, see sort of tire tracks and footprints leading up from where that vehicle would've been parked.

MCCABE: You know, it looked like they knew what they were doing. Let's put it that way.

SHAPIRO: The trees that were stolen each have a storied past. One was a silverberry tree planted in 1946 by Kiyoko Hatanaka, one of the few female bonsai artists in a field dominated by men.

CORNISH: The other was a black pine grown by Juzaburo Furuzawa, a Japanese-American man who was put in an internment camp in Utah during World War II.

PACKARD: And received from family members in Japan some seeds, which he then sowed in tin cans. And I'm not familiar with any other tree that exists in the United States that can trace its provenance to being germinated in an internment camp.

CORNISH: As of today, there are no leads on the whereabouts of the two trees, which Packard says could die within days without the meticulous care they're used to.

PACKARD: Their health will decline, damage to foliage, then to death of the tree. Each one of these trees has received some level of daily interaction for 75 years.

SHAPIRO: But McCabe promises there will be no questions asked if the trees are returned.

MCCABE: We're heartbroken. We're angry. But truly, we do just want the trees back. So please bring them back.

SHAPIRO: It's not so far-fetched. In 2015, a different bonsai tree was stolen from the museum and returned a few days later. According to McCabe, that thief simply wanted to practice trimming its branches.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE MAN GROUP'S "ABOVE")

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