Friday, April 3, 2015
From the News: Suspect in Flamingo Deaths Charged
I remember hearing about the tragedy at Hattiesburg Zoo when it happened a few months ago. A fraternity member at a local university snuck into the zoo at night to steal a flamingo as part of a prank. In the process, two birds were killed, one believed to be the mate of the Chilean flamingo that was kidnapped from the zoo. One student is now indicted, with charges possible for others. The fraternity has been banned from campus. I just count myself as lucky that I've never had to encounter this level of pointless cruelty before.
It's an appalling crime, and I'm glad to find that nearly everyone who isn't the perpetrator seems to agree (I was scrolling the comments, looking for the inevitable "What's the big deal?", but fortunately never found one. My head might have exploded if I did). Flamingos are wonderful birds, full of character and personality, entirely inoffensive (I was attacked by one, once. It was hilarious). The kind of person who would stupidly, cruelly hurt one is the kind of person who would do other, more anthropocentric crimes later down the line. There is a reason that police look at cruelty to animals as a red flag precursor for future criminal activities.
While I'm glad this smug little worm is finally being brought to justice (and hopefully bringing a few of his chums down with him), there are two things that I dislike. One is the focus on the monetary value of the bird. Yes, flamingos are expensive birds, but it shouldn't be the issue if the bird he killed is a $1000 flamingo or a $10 guineafowl. Cruelty for the sake of cruelty is a horrible offense, and needs to be punished (yes, he is also being charged with animal cruelty, but I suspect it is the destruction of property charge which is going to hurt the most). As for the other thing...
Whenever someone commits a crime against a zoo animal, a lot of people online suggest having the offender pay back his debt by volunteering at the zoo. This always offends me. I started volunteering at my local zoo when I was in my early teens, and it, in large part, set me on the road that I followed to my current job. It is not punishment. There are lots of good kids who get turned down for volunteer positions. To take a space that could go to one of them and give it to a monster like this is unacceptable.
Then there's the safety of the kid himself to consider. I work with flamingos and love their company (loud and messy though it may be) more than that of any other bird I work with. If some punk murdered one of my flock, and then the courts made me responsible for babysitting him for however-many hours he was sentenced to, I can tell you one thing - the police would soon be having yet another crime at the zoo to solve.
Unlike this filth, I doubt that a grand jury would indict me...