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A Eurasian eagle owl has escaped from the Central Park Zoo and is still loose

Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl who escaped from Central Park Zoo, is seen on the sidewalk on 5th Avenue in New York City Thursday night.
Twitter/Screenshot by NPR
Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl who escaped from Central Park Zoo, is seen on the sidewalk on 5th Avenue in New York City Thursday night.

Zoo officials in New York City are trying to recover a Eurasian eagle owl that escaped its enclosure on Thursday night.

The owl, who lives in the Central Park Zoo and is named Flaco, was discovered missing around 8:30 p.m. Its exhibit "had been vandalized and the stainless steel mesh cut," according to a statement from the zoo.

The search began immediately. The New York Police Department's 19th Precinct tweeted that they had found the owl on the sidewalk on 5th Avenue, but "he had enough of his growing audience & flew off."

After that, Flaco was found perched in a tree near the zoo, where staff stayed with the bird through the night, according to the zoo's statement.

It flew into Central Park at sunrise on Friday, and zoo employees "continue to have visual contact." A Twitter page that follows birds in New York City shared a video that appears to show him high in a tree in the park.

The zoo's "focus and effort at this time is on the safe recovery of the owl," it said in a statement, and updates will be issued as needed. Multiple local agencies are assisting in the effort.

It remains unclear who vandalized the exhibit and why.

This escape is the latest in a string of recent animal disappearances and other suspicious events at zoos across the country.

On Saturday, five days before Flaco's exhibit was tampered with, 12 squirrel monkeys were stolen from a Louisiana zoo. Two days after that, on Monday, two emperor tamarin monkeys went missing at the Dallas Zoo.

Those disappearances were the culmination of a series of strange events at the Dallas Zoo. Two enclosures — one holding a clouded leopard that briefly escaped, the other holding langur monkeys — were also tampered with on Jan. 13. An endangered lappet-faced vulture was found dead in its enclosure with a suspicious wound on Jan. 21.

The tamarins were recovered, and a suspect who is said to have had plans to take more animals has been arrested and charged for taking the tamarins and tampering with the two enclosures. Police are still investigating whether he has a connection to the vulture's death.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
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