Zoo officials in Washington D.C. said 25 American flamingos and a northern pintail duck were killed Sunday when a wild fox broke into their outdoor habitat.
The Smithsonian National Zoo said staff discovered the gruesome scene early Monday morning and saw the fox before leaving the habitat.
Officials say three additional flamingos were injured and are being treated by veterinarians.
The zoo said it moved the flock, which initially had 74 flamingos, to an indoor barn and the ducks to a covered, secure outdoor space.
“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.”
Officials said zoo staff inspects the bird exhibit multiple times a day, with the last one of the outdoor yard being conducted Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The zoo said that the staff did not see any areas of concern in the flamingo habitat.
But when staff inspected on Monday morning, they found a new softball-sized hole in the heavy-duty metal mesh surrounding the outdoor yard.
The zoo said the staff has since reinforced the metal mesh around the exhibit.
Live traps and digital camera traps with an infrared sensor have also been set up.