Flaco the Owl Escapes New York City Zoo and Flies to Nearby Sanctuary

The Eurasian eagle-owl escaped after the mesh around its habitat was vandalized, Central Park Zoo officials said

A rare owl escaped from the Central Park Zoo last week after its cage was vandalized and has now taken up residence at sanctuary inside the New York City park, according to authorities.

The Central Park Zoo said staff members discovered Flaco, a Eurasian eagle-owl, was missing from his exhibit around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 2.

"The exhibit had been vandalized and the stainless steel mesh cut," the New York zoo said in a statement last Friday. "Upon notification, a team was mobilized to search for the bird."

Flaco flew to nearby Fifth Avenue in New York City after escaping. He was observed near the shopping hub before turning back north to Central Park, ABC News reported.

The zoo's staff then spotted him perched in a tree near the zoo, where he stayed overnight, and they have been keeping an eye on Flaco since.

Eurasian eagle-owl named Flaco sits in a tree in Central Park in New York, . The owl, who resided at the Central Park Zoo, flew the coop after someone vandalized its exhibit by cutting through stainless steel mesh. Zoo officials say Flaco was discovered missing at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and remained on the loose Monday Escaped Owl Central Park, New York, United States - 06 Feb 2023
Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

"Our focus and effort at this time is on the safe recovery of the owl. We will issue updates as needed," the zoo.

Flaco's presence outside the Central Park Zoo has attracted a crowd of onlookers. These fans are growing concerned about the owl's ability to hunt for food. David Barrett, who runs birding Twitter accounts including Manhattan Bird Alert, told ABC that no one has seen the bird eat during his time away from the zoo.

On Wednesday, six days into Falco's escape, the owl was seen in Central Park's Hallett Nature Sanctuary near Wollman Rink.

Flaco's saga comes on the heels of similar zoo vandalism incidents around the country.

The Dallas Zoo has reported several missing animals since the start of 2023, beginning with a 4-year-old clouded leopard named Nova, who first went missing on Jan. 13 — and is now safely back at the zoo. An investigation by the Dallas Police Department on Jan. 16 showed that a cutting tool was used to make an opening in the fencing surrounding the animal's habitat.

This photo, provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society, shows a Eurasion eagle-owl named Flaco that escaped from New York's Central Park Zoo after someone vandalized its exhibit by cutting through stainless steel mesh, zoo officials said . It was spotted on Fifth Avenue, then flew back into the park Friday morning and remained high up in a tree there for much of the day Escaped Owl Central Park, New York, United States - 03 Feb 2023
Julie Larsen Maher/AP/Shutterstock

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One day later, zoo officials noted that the enclosure housing its langurs had been cut. And late last month, two tamarin monkeys — Bella and Finn — were reported missing from the zoo. The tamarins have since been found, and a man has been arrested concerning the animals' theft.

Earlier this week, Houston Zoo officials found a four-inch gap in the mesh of a pelican habitat at its Children's Zoo, but all animals were found secure.

"We will not tolerate the theft or endangerment of any of our animals, big or small," a news release from the zoo said. "These animals represent their wild counterparts and are entirely dependent upon the expert care of our staff. Actions that threaten that care are unacceptable, dangerous, and criminal."

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