WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute staff are mourning the loss of 25 American flamingos and one Northern pintail duck killed by a wild fox Monday in the zoo’s outdoor flamingo habitat.

Three additional flamingos were injured and are being treated at the zoo’s veterinary hospital, according to the zoo.

Bird House staff arrived in the early morning of May 2 and discovered the dead flamingos and saw a fox in the outdoor flamingo yards.

The fox escaped the yard. The flock originally had 74 flamingos and the remaining flamingos were moved indoors to their barn and the ducks to a covered, secure outdoor space — the zoo confirmed.

“This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” said Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “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.”

Exhibit-integrity inspections are conducted multiple times a day by zoo staff as part of regular facility safety procedures, the zoo said. The last inspection before the incident was May 1 at 2:30 p.m. with no areas of concern observed.

On the morning of May 2, staff found a new softball-sized hole in the heavy-duty metal mesh that surrounds the outdoor yard and found no breach to the dig barrier in the outdoor exhibit.

The Zoo is actively investigating the incident and has taken the following immediate actions: 

  • Metal mesh surrounding the flamingo yard has been reinforced. It was last replaced in 2017 and passed an accreditation inspection by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
  • Live traps have been set around the outdoor yard to catch any predators. 
  • Digital camera traps with an infrared sensor triggered by movement have been set up to photograph overnight activity.