The flamingo fathered eight children, lived 16 years, and survived a plight that made international headlines: the massive 2002 flooding in the Czech Republic that left the entire lower half of a Prague zoo completely underwater and forced a number of its inhabitants to be put down.
The flamingo had been hastily transferred to its most current home, the Jihlava Zoo, located in a small Czech city by the same name, about 80 miles south of Prague.
It was here that the pink-feathered bird was stoned and beaten to death Friday by a trio of young boys, zoo officials told The Washington Post, marking the latest in a string of attacks around the world on zoo animals.
The boys, ages 5, 6 and 8, broke into the zoo and scaled a fence to reach the indoor flamingo exhibit. Then they attacked the 60-bird flock, throwing rocks and sticks at them.
“First, they pelted them with stones and then one of them kicked it,” resident zoologist Jan Vašák told the Prague Morning.
One of the birds, the 16-year-old father of eight, bled to death after suffering a broken leg bone and severed arteries. Another bird is recovering from serious but not life-threatening injuries, according to a zoo statement obtained by The Washington Post.
A technician who worked near the flamingo exhibition heard an “unusual sound” and noticed the group of boys, but they quickly ran away from the area, according to the statement. Another employee immediately called the police, who identified the children through CCTV footage.
“Fortunately, one of them had a distinct yellow sweatshirt,” Vašák said. “We immediately phoned police officers and so two of the villains we managed to catch far from the park. The third escaped.”
The children were taken into custody but refused to speak with investigators. They face criminal offenses in connection to the attack, according to zoo officials, but could not be punished because of their young ages. Their parents may have to compensate the zoo for material damages, which amount to about $2,000.
“The price of a breeding piece also coming from wild nature is incalculable,” according to a zoo statement.
Martin Maláč, a spokesman for the zoo, told local press the boys had expressed no remorse for what they had done. He also questioned why the children were not in school, given the time of day.
Staff at the Jihlava Zoo, which is surrounded by a high fence and several other exhibit barriers, said the attack in the flamingo exhibit has left the other birds “terribly frightened” and suffering from “severe stress shock.” Zoologists worried the incident could also affect breeding of the flamingos.
It took many years for the zoo to establish a group of flamingos that would reproduce naturally. “Now there has been a breach of this delicate balance,” Eliška Kubíková, the director of the zoo said initially.
But Vašák told The Post in an email that as of Wednesday, the flock’s behavior was “getting normal.” Since it is almost spring, zoologists observed pairs of flamingos displaying early mating and nesting activity.
“I believe the group will get to normal soon and we will again breed successfully several chicks like every year,” Vašák wrote.
The deceased flamingo originated from Tanzania, Maláč said in a statement. “He was a great and successful father,” Maláč wrote. “Taking into consideration the fact that flamingos live in captivity about 30-40 years, this male was rather young.”
Last week, poachers broke into a French zoo, killing a 4-year-old white rhinoceros and sawing off its horn in a brutal attack that prompted international outrage. In the wake of the attack, a Czech zoo in the central town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem said it would use a chain saw to remove the horns from its herd of rare rhinos.
Earlier this month, a group of visitors at a Tunisian zoo stoned a crocodile in the head, causing internal bleeding that would kill it, AFP reported. Authorities called it a “savage” act.
“This week has been really awful, at least from the perspective of animals in zoos,” Maláč said.
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