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Adelaide zoo's flamingo hospitalised after ba -

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Adelaide zoo's flamingo hospitalised after bashing

The World Today - Thursday, 30 October , 2008 12:42:00

ELEANOR HALL: The greater flamingo is one of the most famous exhibits at Adelaide Zoo but now its
elderly resident is in the zoo hospital after apparently being attacked.

For decades the flamingo mingled freely with zoo visitors. But yesterday afternoon it was found
badly beaten and four young men have now been arrested and charged.

In Adelaide, Margie Smithurst reports.

MARGIE SMITHURST: The 75-year-old flamingo in an icon of the Adelaide Zoo. It roams freely around
its lagoon and onto the footpaths and has delighted several generations of visitors and is a
favourite with zoo staff.

So when keeper Charlie Romer got a call yesterday afternoon saying the bird was in distress, he
raced across the zoo.

CHARLIE ROMER: Sometimes once in a while you get a call over the radio to say that something has
happened and generally it is usually a false alarm but on this occasion I moved pretty swiftly over
to the flamingo exhibit and found the bird in real distress on the ground.

MARGIE SMITHURST: And what did it look like?

CHARLIE ROMER: Yeah, it couldn't stand. It looked like it had been hit over the beak. There was a
lot of blood coming out of its beak and eye so it looked like some object had hit it. It was unable
to stand and it was looking like in real distress, flapping around.

MARGIE SMITHURST: And could you gauge what had happened to it by its injuries?

CHARLIE ROMER: I was pretty distressed myself. You know it is a 75-year-old bird and you couldn't
imagine, you know, when you see a bird with an injury like that, it is really quite distressing.

So, no, I couldn't gauge completely what was wrong with it, if it had hurt its leg. Obviously it
had some major issues with its beak and the eye because there was a lot of blood coming out there
so I just tried to, I grabbed it and took it out the back and tried to comfort it.

MARGIE SMITHURST: Bird keepers say the injuries had to have been caused by an attack and probably
with a blunt object.

Keeper Brett Backhouse says zoo staff are shocked.

BRETT BACKHOUSE: We are pretty upset. This is probably one of our favourite birds. You know, to me
personally he is up there with my favourites and I know the other keepers as well really love him.

It's a species that is just an amazing animal and he is such a nice bird. It is an honour to come
in and work with him all the time and it was just a shame to see that sort of thing happen to such
a great bird.

MARGIE SMITHURST: The bird was taken to the animal hospital and kept there overnight.

Vet David Schultz says while the bird's now been stabilised, its injuries are worrying.

DAVID SCHULTZ: We warmed the bird up. We gave it fluids. We gave it some anti-inflammatories to try
and reduce any inflammation in the brain and he seemed to respond quite well to that.

Overnight we have been monitoring him fairly closely and this morning he is certainly looking a lot
better but we are still not quite out of the woods yet.

MARGIE SMITHURST: Not long after the bird was found, police were questioning some young men on the
other side of the zoo and they've now charged four men - two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and a
19-year-old with ill-treatment of an animal. They all face up to four years in jail or a $50,000
fine if found guilty.

The Adelaide zoo says the bird is one of only a handful of flamingos in the country. With its big
beak, long legs and pink, white and black feathers, the greater flamingo is the most recognisable
of the flamingo species. It's common to parts of Africa and southern Asia and is known for its
showy rituals.

The head of South Australia's zoos, Chris West says the attack on the bird is appalling and will
upset many people beyond the zoo staff.

CHRIS WEST: He is just an icon. He is 70 years old. He has been at the zoo from the '30s. He is the
oldest resident at the zoo. He is just a symbol of the beauty of nature and because he stands close
to people, he has been wonderful as an ambassador because people get a real connection when they
stand so close.

MARGIE SMITHURST: The bird's companion of many years, a male Chilean flamingo, is now roaming
around the lagoon alone.

CHRIS WEST: Whilst they don't get on terribly well, they do sort of push each other around a little
bit. Like two grumpy old men but they will certainly miss each other if they are apart for any
length of time.

MARGIE SMITHURST: The attack comes a week after an international zoo conference in Adelaide, where
zoos were discussing their roles as havens for endangered animals.

ELEANOR HALL: Margie Smithurst in Adelaide.