• 04 Nov - 10 Nov, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

A Eurasian eagle-owl named Flaco has been on the loose for a week in New York City after a vandal cut through his mesh enclosure at the Central Park Zoo. Despite efforts to trap him and almost around-the-clock monitoring by zoo staff, the owl has so far evaded capture.

“We are stressed and frustrated and tired,” one employee, who requested anonymity because zoo workers were ordered not to speak to the press.

Zoo staff first noticed Flaco was missing from his exhibit at 8:30 p.m, per a statement. That night, he was spotted near Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue before he headed back to Central Park. The bird has mostly stuck close to the zoo, perching in trees in the park and even visiting the zoo’s crane exhibit.

His presence has drawn crowds of bird enthusiasts, who spent hours snapping pictures and peering at the majestic creature through binoculars over the weekend. “I’ve been here for six hours today,” birder Anke Frohlich told media. “I’ve taken so many pictures of him … getting harassed by hawks, fluffing up, his orange eyes, sneezing.”

With a wingspan of five to six feet, Eurasian eagle-owls are one of the world’s largest owl species. They have a striking appearance – bright orange eyes, ear tufts and mottled feathers – and are native to Europe, Asia and parts of northern Africa. But Flaco has lived in the zoo’s care for more than a decade, having arrived in 2010 at less than a year old, and bird experts are concerned he will not be able to feed himself, writes the New York Times’ Karen Zraick and Lauren McCarthy.

“Our focus and effort at this time is on the safe recovery of the owl,” the statement reads. “We will issue updates as needed.”