Mysterious German zoo flamingo deaths solved

Fifteen flamingos in a German zoo were found mysteriously beheaded last week, and investigators believe they have finally found the culprit.

According to a BBC News story, “The birds were killed over two consecutive nights, with their bodies found on Friday and then Saturday. Some had their heads cut off or torn off, while others were stabbed to death, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Zoo director Manfred Niekisch calls this a ‘shocking incident’ and staff are ‘speechless.’ It is not clear who or what killed the birds, but stab wounds suggest it was done by humans.”

Guards were posted to protect the flamingos, but the attacker struck again, somehow without being seen. The story caused a sensation in the German news media, with wild speculation about the culprit’s identity, ranging from deranged psychopaths to a gruesome youthful dare to Satan worshipers. Mysteriously, some of the animals seem to have been drained of blood, suggesting a vampire or even the mythical chupacabra.

Mysterious Mass Animal Deaths
When a group of animals die suddenly and mysteriously, it often makes news and sparks speculation. In 2011 an estimated one million small fish died in Redondo Beach, Calif. The massive die-off at a marina was blamed on algae blooms that robbed the water of oxygen. On New Year’s Eve of that year an estimated 5,000 blackbirds dropped from the air over Beebe, Arkansas. The birds had been spooked and disoriented by fireworks, sending many of them plunging into trees and buildings and killing them on impact.

In 2012 a horse and a heifer in rural Colorado were found apparently stabbed with some unknown object and seemingly mutilated. As with the German flamingos, some people immediately suspected that the grisly work was done by Satanists or a deranged animal sadist. Tests later revealed that the animals died of natural causes.

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A year later, in August 2013, the remains of more than 100 dead elk were found near Las Vegas, New Mexico. Even more mysteriously, the elk showed no obvious cause of death. Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish investigated, and ruled out several possible causes including poachers, anthrax, lightning strikes, botulism, malicious poisoning and an industrial or agricultural accident. About a month later, following testing of elk tissue samples and water samples, the real killer was found: pond scum. Or, more specifically anatoxin-A, a neurotoxin produced by a blue-green algae that develops in warm, standing water like that in livestock water tanks. The elk had all drunk from the same contaminated water source and died en masse.

In the case of the Frankfurt flamingos, after a week of investigation the zoo released a statement saying that tests on the bird carcasses showed that the culprit was a fox. Many people incorrectly assume that predators eat what they kill, but that is not the case; many canids (including dogs, coyotes, wolves, and foxes) bite their prey to death—usually with puncture wounds to the neck— and leave the rest.  The “stab wounds” turned out to be deep teeth marks, and “The zoo now plans to lock the birds up at night, erect an electric fence and set live fox traps to prevent future flamingo massacres.”

Sadly, cases of deranged people and sick pranksters shooting, torturing and sometimes even mutilating pets and livestock are not unheard of. But often what at first is interpreted as the work of sadistic humans is in fact a natural animal death.