A flamingo in an Illinois zoo had to be euthanized after an elementary school student threw a rock inside its enclosure and injured it. According to The Pantagraph, a representative at the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington said the rock broke the flamingo's leg, resulting in injuries which left them with no choice but to put the animal down.
Speaking about the incident, Jay Tetzloff, director of the city-owned zoo and parks, recreation, and cultural arts department, said, "A juvenile guest accidentally injured a flamingo on Monday by skipping a rock into the habitat. Unfortunately, staff determined the best course of action given the animal's injuries was to euthanize the bird."
Prior to the unfortunate incident, the zoo boasted of 25 flamingos in its exhibit, which is located at the entrance and made the birds its unofficial greeters. Tetzloff said he saw no reason to change the layout of the exhibit and that they were working with the juvenile's family to move forward and hopefully turn this into a learning experience.
The exhibit has been one that has attracted controversy since it first opened in 2016, mostly because of the costs associated with it. The exhibit was the first project in the zoo's $16.7 million master plan and its first new one since 2004, but it became quickly apparent that it would be a lot more expensive than anticipated.
It was reported that all four bids submitted in connection to the design and construction of the exhibit in 2015 were higher than expected, which meant the project suffered a setback and had to be downsized, redesigned, and rebid.
Eventually, half of the $300,000 needed for the exhibit came from private sources, with the other half committed by the city. To save money, an island had to be eliminated from the plan, and city employees performed the demolition and landscaping work and built the fence around the exhibit.
The zoo also had to bring down the original flock size of 35 flamingos to 25 flamingos, though even that number still means it has one of the largest flocks housed in zoos in the country — just 13 other zoos even have the bird.
Speaking during the exhibit's public debut, Mayor Tari Renner had called it "a great day for the quality of life in our community" and "a great day for economic development."
The exhibit was estimated to reduce the city's tax subsidy for the zoo because the exhibit is expected to increase admissions by 5 percent, though some residents were still opposed to it and had previously protested by bringing plastic versions of the pink birds to City Council meetings and planting them in their yards.
The recent death of one of the birds is nonetheless a tragic one, especially considering they can live up to an average of 30 years in the wild, and up to 60 years in captivity.
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