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25 flamingos massacred by a wild fox at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

Key Points:

  • A wild fox broke into the flamingo habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

  • 25 flamingos and one duck were killed with 3 others being injured.

  • The attack occurred overnight with the deceased birds being discovered the following morning.

The Tragedy

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. and animal lovers everywhere are heartbroken and mourning the loss of 25 American flamingos and one Northern pintail duck killed by a wild fox on the night of May 1st in the flamingos outdoor yard. Three other flamingos survived the attack and are being treated at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital. The flock was originally 74 strong before the mass murder.

“This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” said Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Directors of Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “The barrier we used passed inspection and is used by other accredited zoos across the country. Our focus now is on the well-being of the remaining flock and fortifying our habitats.”

What the investigation has revealed so far…

As part of the regular facility safety procedures, habitat inspections must be done multiple times a day by staff. The last inspection was conducted on May 1 at 2:30 p.m. The staff reported no areas of concern were observed. The inspection conducted the morning of May 2 revealed a small hole, the size of a softball, in the heavy-duty metal mesh which surrounds the outdoor habitat.

The flamingo exhibit was first introduced at the Zoo in the 1970s with the same design it has now. This is the first breach where a predator breaks through the mesh. Although the Zoo is currently investigating the incident, they have already enforced the following actions. The metal mesh surrounding the flamingo yard has been reinforced. Live traps around the outdoor yard to catch any predators and camera traps with infrared sensors triggered by movement have all been set up to protect the flock during the night.

Is there reason to worry?

Monday’s horrific attack is just the latest fox related incident rattling Washington in recent weeks. During March, Police said animal control captured a fox after nine people were bitten outside the Capitol building. Washington Officials blamed the spread of rabies as the reasoning behind the attacks while also stating euthanization as the solution.

Fortunately for lovers of the tall, pink bird, there's an abundance of American flamingos with there being 80,000 to 90,000 concentrated across four major colonies in the wild. Additionally the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species lists both the American flamingo and Northern pintail duck as species of little concern.

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