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Eurasian Eagle Owl Escapes From the Central Park Zoo After Enclosure Vandalized

Eurasian Eagle Owl

Flaco is a Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped from his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo late last week. As of the seventh of February, 2023, the runaway owl remains loose in New York City. Over the past several days, social media has been abuzz with sightings of the missing owl which has made its way to a few different parks and sanctuaries in the area nearby the zoo.

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Flaco is believed to have escaped overnight on Thursday as a direct result of deliberate tampering with his enclosure. As of right now, the Central Park Zoo is reporting that Flaco’s cage was cut by unknown vandals. This event secures the Central Park Zoo a place on a rather unfortunate growing list. In early 2023, a string of unusual zoo crimes have resulted in several missing, stolen, or deceased animals.

On January 28th or 29th, 2023, Zoosiana, a zoo located in Broussard, Louisiana, was the target of a thief who allegedly stole a dozen squirrel monkeys from the zoo’s squirrel monkey habitat. A local man has since been arrested in connection with this case. The Dallas Zoo has also experienced a rash of unusual events, culminating in the widely publicized theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys. Beginning in January, the Dallas Zoo experienced a “close call” when its clouded leopard, Nova, was found to have escaped its enclosure. Nova was located nearby and recaptured shortly after her escape, but it was discovered at the time that her cage had been deliberately cut. The langur monkey habitat was also cut, however no animals were reported missing.

Some time after this event, an endangered lappet-faced vulture was found deceased in his cage with what police have described as a “wound.” In both cases, foul play was immediately suspected. It came as a shock, then, that despite the increased vigilance of the zoo’s staff, two emperor tamarin monkeys were stolen from their vandalized enclosure in early February. The two monkeys were later found in an unoccupied home in Lancaster, Texas, some fifteen miles from the zoo. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the rash of thefts, but many questions still remain in this case, including whether their may be a connection to other zoo crimes.

Could Flaco the Eurasian eagle-owl be the latest victim in a nationwide zoo crime spree? For the time being, the Central Park Zoo is reporting that the investigation into Flaco’s escape and the damage to his enclosure remains under investigation.

For New York City birders, the opportunity to view a Eurasian eagle-owl in the “wild” is a bittersweet one. Many interested onlookers have gathered in the areas where Flaco has been sighted in order to watch the runaway raptor. Even amongst the most enthusiastic onlookers, questions surrounding Flaco’s ability to survive for much longer in the wild loom large. Flaco has been a zoo animal for the last decade and is likely ill-equipped for life in the wild. Zoo staff are continuing their efforts to bait him with food and remain hopeful that, given the fact that he has not strayed far from the zoo, he will eventually be recaptured and returned to his home.

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