TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — An Orlando man has been arrested for picking up, and throwing a beloved flamingo named “Pinky” to the ground at Busch Gardens Tampa on Tuesday. Pinky’s injuries were so severe, she had to be euthanized.
Investigators say 45-year-old Joseph Anthony Carrao was with his family, including his mother, his brother, and three teenage children. While at the Jambo Junction animal viewing area, Corrao reached into an animal pen and picked up a flamingo and then set it down uninjured. He then picked up a second flamingo. Witnesses and his mother told him to leave the flamingos alone.
According to police, witnesses said Corrao then threw the flamingo to the ground, causing serious injury to the flamingo, whose foot was nearly severed.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has more than 250 flamingos, but “Pinky” the Flamingo was very special. She made many appearances across the Tampa Bay area as a part of the park’s conservation and education efforts.
The crime has many people wondering how anyone could do something so heartless, even 13th Judicial Circuit Judge John Conrad, who presided over the suspect’s first appearance Wednesday morning. “It’s beyond senseless. It is actually depraved in my opinion, Mr. Corrao,” said Judge Conrad at the hearing.
Judge Conrad didn’t mince words, upping Carrao’s bond to $5,000 at the hearing. “Apparently, your mother yelled at you to put the bird down… According to multiple witnesses, you threw the bird down to the ground with such force, the bird’s foot was [almost] severed and they had to euthanize the flamingo,” said Judge Conrad.
Flamingos are friendly and docile birds, so much so they will walk right up to people at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, which houses 22 birds on their property.
“They are very docile, they can’t even bite, Their beak is really just used for filtering…they really can’t protect themselves,” said Bill O’Grady of Sunken Gardens. Last week, Sunken Gardens installed a bamboo barrier to prevent people from reaching over and touching the animals there.
As for Carrao’s motive, that is “the question of the day,” according to the Tampa Police Department. Spokesman Steve Hegarty tells News Channel 8 there is no apparent motive right now, but that witnesses are being interviewed.
Busch Gardens released the following statement:
Yesterday 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.
SeaWorld and the Humane Society of the United States released a joint statement on Wednesday condemning the attack.
“SeaWorld will strongly urge prosecution in this case, and for any person who engages in this sort of cruel behavior towards animals,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Pinky was a beloved member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay family, and she will be sorely missed. Our Ambassador team members are appalled by this incident, and I am sure they share my view that our state must have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of cruelty.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, added “People who abuse animals often don’t stop there, and pose a violent risk to the rest of society. That’s why we’ve worked to fortify the legal framework across the country to punish malicious animal cruelty as a serious offense.”