A flamingo was beaten to death and another seriously injured by three young boys who snuck into the pink-feathered birds' enclosure at a Czech zoo, according to a statement from the Jihlava Zoo.
The trio of boys, ages 5, 6 and 8, kicked and pelted the flamingos with stones before escaping when employees at the zoo, located 80 miles outside of Prague, noticed them and called the police, according to local media reports.
"Fortunately, one of them had a distinct yellow sweatshirt,”resident zoologist Jan Vašák told the Prague Morning, according to the Washington Post. “We immediately phoned police officers and so two of the villains we managed to catch far from the park. The third escaped.”
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The attack left a 16-year-old male flamingo who had fathered eight chicks dead, according to a statement from Jihlava Zoo spokesman Martin Malac. It is currently mating season for the flamingos and the attack has left the flock traumatized, Malac said.
Malac said police were investigating the incident and it is a possibility that the parents would have to pay for the damage caused. The flamingo was valued an estimated 50,000 crowns (USD $2,000).
The incident is the latest in a string of fatal attacks on zoo animals.
Just last week, poachers broke into a French zoo and killed a white rhino for its keratinous horn, known for uses in traditional Asian medicine, NBC News reported. And earlier this month, a group of visitors at a Tunisian zoo stoned a crocodile until it died from internal bleeding, according to local reports.
According to Born Free USA, an animal advocacy group that tracks zoo incidents across the country, there have been at least 33 deaths at zoos in the U.S. since 1990: 15 at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and 18 at unaccredited zoos. But, the group notes, the numbers are based on media stories, so it's possible that the number is actually higher because of unreported incidents.
“We have seen tragedy after tragedy where accidental contact between humans and zoo animals end in fatalities," Born USA spokeswoman Kate Dylewsky said. "The only fool-proof way to keep people safe from wild animals and prevent wild animals from being slaughtered after close contact with people is to stop putting them in close contact in the first place."
"Gorillas belong in Uganda, lions belong in Kenya, tigers belong in India, and polar bears belong in the Artic. None of them belong behind bars mere feet from noisy crowds. Keep wildlife in the wild and not in American urban jungles and there is a much better chance of people and animals alike remaining safe,” Dylewsky added.