Darius, a Guinness world record holder for being the biggest continental giant rabbit, vanished from owner Annette Edwards’s garden in Stoulton, Worcestershire, over the weekend.
Robert Kenny, a professional pet detective of 15 years, believes the rabbit was “stolen to order” by thieves who may have staked out the former Playboy model’s home for days in advance.
And he now fears the potential captors could be racing against the clock to get the animal out of the UK before it is tracked down by police.
Mr Kenny told The Independent: “With regard to what we would call an exotic pet, which this would be, it’s simply a case whereby the risk of the animal being taken out of the country could be the closing deal with regard to it because the rabbit was definitely stolen to order with regard to making money or ransom.
“I know the owner of the rabbit is of the belief that somebody within the same rabbit-collecting industry could be involved.
“Definitely the borders are the first thing you would close with regard to something like this where you’ve got the world’s biggest rabbit.
“Everything we do is manageable within the country – but if it goes outside the country it’s more difficult.”
Mr Kenny, who runs Happy Tails Pet Detective, said Darius’s potential captors may have their sights set on another country in Europe, such as the Netherlands.
He said: “History tells us with regard to pedigree pets there’s a market and we are well aware that there are countries in Europe that stolen pedigree animals are being taken to.
“Holland is obviously very close to the UK and it has been used before and we’ve recovered stolen expensive pets that have been shipped over there and held in safe houses.”
However he is optimistic that the media coverage surrounding Darius’ disappearance, and the fact it is difficult to miss a 4ft-long giant rabbit, will make it hard for anyone to get the pet out of the UK.
“It’s simply impossible because it’s such high profile now it would be impossible for me to believe that the pet cannot be recovered once it’s within the UK,” he said.
“My professional opinion is that this rabbit I would be very shocked if they didn’t solve it very quickly.
“I think it’s impossible because of the size of it that it couldn’t be located.”
West Mercia Police said it was believed Darius was stolen from an enclosure in Ms Edwards’s garden between Saturday night and Sunday morning, when she discovered he was gone.
Ms Edwards has offered a £2,000 reward for Darius’ return after taking to Twitter to plead for anyone who may have taken her pet to “please bring him back”.
“A very sad day,” she wrote. “Darius has been stolen from his home. The police are doing their best to find out who has taken him.”
Darius, who is now too old to breed, became a celebrity overnight and made several television appearances after he was declared the world’s longest rabbit in 2010. It is 129cm or 4ft 2in long.
Ms Edwards described the rabbit as “such a loveable character” who is “very fit for his age” in an interview with The Telegraph.
The Independent has contacted Annette Edwards and West Mercia Police for an update.
Anyone with information of the rabbit’s whereabouts should contact PC Daren Riley by calling 101 and quoting reference 00286_I_11042021.