Early Monday morning, staff arrived at the Bird House at Smithsonian’s National Zoo to find 25 flamingos dead. They spotted a fox in the outdoor flamingo yard, but it escaped.
The dead flamingos were part of a flock of 74 American flamingos. A Northern pintail duck was also killed, the zoo said in a press release.
Three other flamingos were found injured; they’re being treated at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital. Staff moved the rest of the flamingo flock to their indoor barn and the ducks to a different outdoor enclosure, which is covered and secure.
The exhibit had metal mesh around it designed to keep out predators. The fox incursion is the first breach of zoo security since the current exhibit’s opening in the 1970s. Zoo staff conduct multiple integrity checks every day, and the zoo says no concerns were spotted during the last check at 2:30 PM on May 1.
But on the morning of May 2, an inspection revealed a softball-sized hole in the metal mesh. The zoo has increased security around the exhibit by reinforcing the mesh barrier, setting live traps around the yard, and setting up movement-triggered cameras with infrared sensors to catch nighttime activity. This spring DC has seen several incidents with aggressive foxes, which are native to the region.
The flamingos live primarily outdoors in a 9,750-square-foot yard that includes both the barn and a heated pool, but the exhibit isn’t currently on display. The Bird House and surrounding plateau has been undergoing major renovations and is scheduled to open in the fall of this year.