The Smithsonian National Zoo says it is "devastated" after a fox made its way into the outdoor flamingo habitat and killed 26 birds—25 flamingos and one pintail duck. Zoo officials say workers spotted the dead birds Monday morning and saw a wild fox in the enclosure, the Washington Post reports. Officials believe the fox, which got away, entered the habitat through a baseball-sized hole that was found in mesh fencing. "This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” zoo director Brandie Smith said in a statement.
"The barrier we used passed inspection and is used by other accredited zoos across the country," Smith said. "Our focus now is on the well-being of the remaining flock and fortifying our habitats." The zoo in northwest Washington, DC says survivors from the flock of 74 American flamingos were moved indoors. This is the first time the enclosure has been breached since flamingos arrived at the zoo in the 1970s, reports the Hill.
The fencing has been reinforced and live traps have been set up in case the fox returns. Dan Rauch, DC's wildlife biologist, tells the Post that to a fox, a flamingo is "like a chicken with longer legs and a different color." He says the fox was probably attracted to the flamingos because "they're an enclosed food source." (Last month, a fox was euthanized after biting nine people on the grounds of the Capitol.)