ORLANDO, Fla. - A 45-year-old Orlando man was arrested Tuesday, accused of throwing a flamingo to the ground at Busch Gardens and injuring the bird so badly that it had to be euthanized.
Joseph Anthony Corrao was arrested on charges of animal cruelty.
Corrao and his family were visiting the Tampa theme park and went into the Jambo Junction animal viewing area, police said. According to Tampa police, Corrao reached into an animal pen and picked up a flamingo, and witnesses said he threw the bird, named Pinky, to the ground.
"Due to the defendant's unnecessary actions and excessive force, the flamingo had to be euthanized," police said in a statement.
A guest at Busch Gardens said Corrao was "plastered," but Tampa police have not said if Corrao was intoxicated.
Corrao's neighbors were shocked when they heard of his arrest.
"What possesses somebody? It's a helpless animal," neighbor Jessica Lopez said.
Neighbors say Corrao kept to himself. He was described as unfriendly and arrogant.
"Surprised that anyone would do it, but in talking with a person briefly you can kind of tell their demeanor and I'm not surprised in that way," neighbor Ralph Reinbeck said.
News 6 stopped by Corrao's Orlando home, but no one answered the door. We saw a woman run out of the home covering her head and speed off in a car.
Pinky was a 15-year-old Chilean flamingo, described by the park as a "diva extraordinaire."
"Today is a very sad day at Busch Gardens," the park said.
Corrao was arrested and taken to the Hillsborough County Jail. His bond was raised by a judge to $5,000.
The judge said during Corrao's first appearance, "It's beyond senseless. It actually borders on depraved. I don't know who does that. I don't relate to that mentally on any level."
Busch Gardens issued a statement Wednesday about Pinky's death:
"(Tuesday) evening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, an adult male guest attacked one of our animal ambassadors, a Chilean flamingo known as Pinky, causing traumatic injuries.
"Pinky was immediately transported to the park's Animal Care Center where veterinarians made the decision to humanely euthanize her based on the severity of her injuries.
"Pinky was a beloved member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay family and made many appearances on behalf of the park's conservation and education efforts. She will be sorely missed.
"The guest was detained by Busch Gardens' Security and arrested by Tampa Police Officers. This is now a police matter, and further inquiries should be addressed to the appropriate authorities."
SeaWorld, the owner of the Tampa theme park, is condemning the attack. In a statement it said it "will urge authorities to purise the case with vigor...SeaWorld will strongly urge prosecution in this case, and for any person who engages in this sort of cruel behavior towards animals."
The park posted a bio of Pinky to its website in June:
Meet our diva extraordinaire, Pinky.
Pinky is a 15-year-old Chilean flamingo, and like all flamingos, she loves warm, tropical weather. However, unlike wild flamingos, and even our other flamingo ambassadors, Pinky loves to dance for our guests. Her keepers say that this is not a trained behavior, but a natural behavior she loves to show off. Flamingos are filter feeders, using their beaks to strain tasty morsels out of the water around them as they wade. To stir up the tastiest treats, flamingos will stamp their webbed feet. Pinky often performs this toe-tapping behavior out of the water for guests. She loves to get her groove on and enjoys the attention of her adoring fans.
What does Pinky eat?
In nature, flamingos eat blue-green and red algae, insects, crustaceans, mollusks and small fish. It’s the vitamins and nutrients in these food items that give flamingos the coloration they’re famous for. At Busch Gardens, the flamingos’ diet provides the same nutrition as their natural food sources, and comes in powdered and pellet forms. Newly hatched flamingo chicks have gray or creamy white down feathers – it takes 2-3 years for them to develop their trademark pink pigment from their carotenoid-rich diet.
Why do flamingos stand on one leg?
Because if they lifted the other one, they would fall! Ha ha ha. All jokes aside, it is believed that flamingos will stand on one leg for a couple of reasons. The process of circulating blood all the way from the heart down to each leg costs a lot of energy. Flamingos can conserve some of that energy while resting, by tucking one leg up underneath their wing. And when it’s chilly outside, this is also an effective technique to stay warm.
While Pinky has a safe and loving home here at Busch Gardens, the rest of her species is suffering from habitat loss and exploitation. Adult flamingos are prey to several predators, including man, and the population trend of Chilean flamingos is described as “decreasing” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). If you would like to see our beautiful flocks of flamingos here at the park, you can find them in several places.
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