Other Animals
Eurasian eagle-owl
A Eurasian eagle-owl, nicknamed Fraco, escaped his long-time enclosure at Central Park Zoo in New York City and took up residence in Central Park. Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a simply named Central Park Zoo located in the heart of Central Park in Manhattan (NYC). It is home to many creatures represented within the scope of three natural biomes: Tropic Zone, Temperate Territory, and the Polar Circle. Spread out over 7 acres, the Central Park Zoo entertains hundreds of thousands of visitors on an annual basis. This historical zoo first opened its doors in 1861, making it one of the country’s oldest zoos. But it has one exhibit that refuses to be contained – a Eurasian owl known as Flaco.

After an Act of Vandalism, Relief that Owl is Surviving on Its Own

Flaco escaped his exhibit on February 2 after his enclosure was vandalized. Someone cut the mesh giving Flaco room to fly off. The Zoo officials worried that his predatory instincts might be somewhat non-existent after having been in captivity since 2010. He was introduced to the zoo near the young age of 1 and had been wholly dependent on the system for food and protection since then. But Flaco was discovered to have been ably and naturally helping with the rat population of the area, thereby assisting with a problem that officials would certainly like to see better solved. As a result, Flaco has been allowed to continue to roam Central Park without new attempts to recover him.

Flaco is recognized in the wild by bird fans and bird watchers, especially the popular Manhattan Bird Alert Twitter account that keeps close eyes on the bird inhabitants of the beautiful world-famous park. After his escape, park officials attempted to recapture him using traps. But Flaco recognized the attempts for what they were and easily avoided them all. With their current decision to leave him be, Flaco has seemingly flourished. However, the zoo is closely monitoring Flaco in case he begins to show signs of distress. With that, they will begin new efforts to recapture Flaco and bring him back to safety. So far, Flaco is doing quite well and is in no need of intervention.

Since early February, Flaco has explored farther north in his natural desire to understand his region. Zoo officials are delighted that his skills and confidence have improved significantly since his escape. The largest concern the Central Park Zoo has is accidental exposure to rat poison, which would harm Flaco should he ingest some of it. Another concern is that Flaco will simply leave the park and completely fall off the “radar” of the officials.

The NYPD once found Flaco on the sidewalks of 5th Avenue, not long after his highly publicized escape. But after a large group had formed surrounding the owl, he simply left and flew back into the park region. Many of the inhabitants of NYC who have come to catch a glimpse of Flaco have been for the most part left the non-native owl alone. A quick photograph and the bird watchers moved on.

An Exception to the Rule

Although Flaco was unharmed when his enclosure was vandalized, some zoo animals are trafficked into the illegal pet trade or stolen to be someone’s pet, which can jeopardize the animal’s health and well-being, especially if the animal requires a specialized diet or care. Flaco’s case is an exception in that Eurasian owls’ conservation status falls under “Least Concerned,” and he doesn’t pose a danger to the public, coupled with the fact that he has proven to be capable of hunting his own food. 

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