Inside Wichita: How are all the animals at the Sedgwick County Zoo fed?
Flamingo No. 492 might just be known by its number, but it sure has made quite the name for itself.
The flamingo became a fugitive at about 9 p.m. on June 27, 2005, when it and another flamingo took advantage of strong storm winds and their not-yet-trimmed flight feathers, The Wichita Eagle previously reported. The two got away and haven’t been back to Wichita, Kansas, since.
Fourteen years later, No. 492 just was spotted in Texas (again) — and now it might get a name other than No. 492 (the number on its leg band).
You should know, though, that nobody knows if it is a boy or a girl, and that’s because No. 492 had been at the Sedgwick County Zoo for such a short time that when it escaped blood testing hadn’t been done yet.
“No. 492, and the other flamingo who escaped, both went separate ways,” the Eagle reported. “No. 492 went to the Gulf Coast, and the other went up north. The Eagle reported in 2009 that no one has seen the northern bird since August 2005.”
“We can only assume that in the storm, the two had got separated,” Christan Baumer, Sedgwick County Zoo spokeswoman, said in 2009.
While there have not been any sightings of African flamingo No. 492 in Kansas since the great escape, it has been spotted in Texas several times, as well as in Louisiana and Wisconsin.
Just last week, the flamingo escapee was spotted by photographer John Humbert along the Texas coast, according to a Facebook post from Texas Parks and Wildlife. This is the same area where it was spotted about this time last year, too.
“The flamingo is back!” the department said with a photo of the flamingo flying over the water. “This flamingo escaped from a Kansas zoo in 2005 and is once again visiting the Texas coast.”
In the photo, it’s easy to see that this is the famed flamingo thanks to the yellow band with the numbers “492” on its leg.
“Spotted once again during the Texas Colonial Waterbird Survey by Coastal Fisheries staff and volunteers, this escaped zoo flamingo has decided to spend Memorial Day weekend on the Texas coast,” Coastal Fisheries - Texas Parks and Wildlife said on Facebook.
“That’s something you’d never expect to see in the wild in Texas. I think there is a certain wow factor in being able to see it,” said Julie Hagen, a social media specialist for the Coastal Fisheries Division, the Austin-American Statesman reported.
The Coastal Fisheries Division isn’t sure if the flamingo stayed along the coast all year or if it just returned, Hagen said, according to the newspaper.
Last year, she told the newspaper that Texas “might be on its migratory path.”
Now, the flamingo might just have a chance to be known by something other than No. 492.
“Coastal Fisheries ... is taking name suggestions!” Texas Parks and Wildlife said on Facebook.
“Name her Dorothy,” Ted Steinhauser commented on the Coastal Fisheries post. “She’s clearly not in Kansas anymore.”
“How about Fugi...as in fugitive,” suggested Cheryll Thompson.
“Boomer....as in Boomerang, because he keeps coming back!” wrote Kay Grafton.
“BANDIT. It is banded and an escapee,” said Steve Susan Brown.
Whatever the bird is named or called, the Sedgwick County Zoo has no plans to get its flamingo back.
“There really isn’t an easy way to recapture the bird,” zoo spokesperson Christan Baumer told the AP in 2007. “It would only disturb wildlife where it’s been found and possibly could do more damage to the bird than just leaving him alone.”