Exhibits Taken From Willow Creek’s Tonkin Wildlife Museum
By RHONDA BIGOVICH, Two Rivers Tribune
Burglars in an unidentified truck pulled up to the Tonkin Wildlife Museum in Willow Creek, tore the door open, stole valuable animal artifacts and fled in less than 90 seconds.
Among the items taken was a mounted elk head, a large bear-hide rug, a kangaroo hide, and two African elephant tusks that each weighed over 100 pounds.
The Museum’s alarm system was triggered by the break-in and the Sheriff was contacted within minutes, but the thieves were already gone.
Art Tonkin owner of the museum is very distraught. He and his wife hunted each of the animals that are show cased in the museum. There is sentimental value and pride the Tonkin’s have in their family’s exhibits.
“They will piddle paddle it off for a little bit of money,” Tonkin said. “They don’t understand the real value of what they took.”
The Tonkin’s Wildlife Museum has been open for the past four years.
“It took half of my lifetime to gather these animals to make this museum,” Tonkin said. “I won’t be around much longer.”
Tonkin is 97 years old. He hunted in Africa twice, with one safari lasting a month straight. The second trip – when he got his elephant – was 20 years ago.
“In 31 days, we didn’t go through one town at all,” Tonkin said. “We were out in the wilderness; with nothing but all the animals.”
Carol Tonkin, Art’s daughter, was visibly upset at what she said feels like a personal assault on her family.
“These items cannot be replaced,” Carol Tonkin said. “Our father and mother did this together. It’s not right for someone to come in and tear it apart.”
Art Tonkin moved to Willow Creek in 1952 and three generations of the Tonkin family live in the town now.
Carol Tonkin said, “I graduated from Hoopa High, and now my children go there too.”
Both Tonkins said they were left wondering who would do something like this.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the theft, and asks that anyone with information regarding the case call (707) 445-7251. There is also a $1,000 reward being offered for the recovery of the stolen objects, with no questions asked. Contact Carol Tonkin (530) 262-2504.
“People should be trying to put things in the museum, not take stuff out,” Art Tonkin said. “I feel so sad for the city of Willow Creek.”