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25 Flamingos Killed by Fox at Smithsonian National Zoo

Four flamingos

On the morning of May 2nd, 2022, a staff member checking on the flamingo habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute was greeted by a tragic scene. It appears that a fox breached a fence surrounding the flamingo exhibit overnight. All told, twenty-five flamingos were killed within a matter of just hours. A further three flamingos were injured and are receiving treatment. Additionally, the fox claimed the life of one duck, a Northern Pintail.

The flamingo exhibit, which previously housed seventy-four American flamingos, had been inspected as recently as 2:30 PM on May 1st. The exhibit, which has been a zoo staple since the 1970s, was found to be in good condition and compliant with the safety standards to which the zoo and other accredited zoos adhere.

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On the morning of May 2nd, a fox was spotted fleeing the scene of the unfortunate incident. The perpetrating fox seems to have escaped prompting the zoo to begin fortifying all of its enclosures. Upon inspection, it was found that a hole in the metal mesh surrounding the exhibit had appeared some time between the last inspection and the massacre. Although the exact sequence of events has yet to be determined, it is thought that this hole served as the deadly fox’s entry point into the otherwise secure habitat.

In response to the incident, the zoo’s remaining American flamingos have been temporarily relocated to their indoor barn while a solution is sought. The ducks which shared the nearly 10,000 square foot outdoor exhibit with the flamingo flock have been moved to a secure outdoor space.

The flamingo habitat, which is currently closed to the public due to ongoing renovations, features a barn and a heated pool.

In response to this incident, the Smithsonian National Zoo has placed live traps as well as motion activated surveillance equipment surrounding the now empty flamingo habitat. It is hoped that these measures will help locate the fox and prevent further predation on zoo residents.

Flamingo on One Leg
Photo by Lieselot. Dalle on Unsplash

While not strictly endangered, American flamingos face habitat degradation, with only four major breeding colonies existing in the wild. Furthermore, flamingos in captivity can live as long as sixty years, so the loss of so many is one deeply felt by zoo staff and guests.

Flamingos thrive in large groups and can grow stressed when they perceive their flock to be too small. This has prompted some zoos with smaller flamingo populations to hang mirrors in their flamingo habitats. Doing so has been observed to trick the birds, reduce their stress levels, and even encourage breeding behaviors. The reduction of their flock by over a third will no doubt cause significant stress to the surviving flamingos. Our hearts and minds are with the Smithsonian National Zoo’s flock as they begin the recovery process.

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