News Animals 25 Flamingos, 1 Duck, Killed by Wild Fox at National Zoo Keepers found a softball-sized hole in the metal mesh around the exhibit. By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Published May 5, 2022 11:00AM EDT Fact checked by Katherine Martinko Fact checked by Katherine Martinko Twitter University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive More than two dozen American flamingos and a Northern pintail duck were killed by a wild fox in an outdoor exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. Three more flamingos were injured and are being treated. Staff members from the zoo’s Bird House arrived early on May 2 and found 25 dead flamingos and a duck. They also spotted a fox, which escaped from the outdoor flamingo area. “This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” Brandie Smith, director of the zoo, said in a statement. “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.” American flamingos are classified as a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List. There are believed to be between 150,000 and 205,000 mature flamingos in the wild. The surviving flamingos were moved to their indoor barn and the remaining ducks to a covered, outdoor area. The flock originally consisted of 74 flamingos. They mostly live outside in the 9,750-square-foot yard that has a heated pool and enclosed barn. As it’s currently designed, the flamingo exhibit has been open at the zoo since the 1970s and this is the first time a predator has entered it, the zoo says. Incident Under Investigation According to the zoo, staff members inspect the exhibits several times each day as part of regular safety protocols. The flamingo outdoor yard habitat was last inspected the afternoon before the attack and no issues were found. When the exhibit was inspected the morning after the attack, they found a softball-sized hole in the metal mesh that surrounds the yard. There were no issues with the barrier that keeps animals from digging into the enclosure. The zoo says staff members are investigating what happens. In the meantime, they’ve made some immediate changes to the exhibit. The metal mesh surrounding the flamingo yard habitat has been reinforced. (According to the zoo, it was last replaced in 2017 and it then passed an inspection by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.) They’ve also set up live traps around the outdoor yard to catch any predators, as well as digital camera traps to photograph any activity that happens overnight. The Bird House is currently closed to the public while it is undergoing renovations. About American Flamingos American flamingos, also known as Caribbean flamingos, are one of the largest flamingo species. An average adult is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and weighs 4 to 8 pounds (1.8 to 3.6 kilograms). They’re found in the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America and they live about 40 to 60 years. The bird’s distinctive pink- or red-colored feathers come from a pigment in its food, including shrimp and algae. American flamingos are classified as a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. There are believed to be between 150,000 and 205,000 mature flamingos in the wild. Although population numbers are increasing, according to the IUCN, they still face threats. They lose habitat due to human interference, such as road construction and other development. The Northern pintail (Anas acuta) is also a species of least concern, according to the IUCN, but its population numbers are decreasing. It faces threats from wetland habitat loss, petroleum pollution and wetland management practices, and predation by feral cats. Biologist Photographer Gets Up Close to Pink Flamingos View Article Sources "Tragic Loss of Life at Smithsonian's National Zoo." Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, 3 May 2022. "American Flamingo." Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. "American Flamingo." IUCN Red List. "American Flamingo Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status." San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. "Northern Pintail." IUCN Red List.