Man arrested for attacking flamingo at Busch Gardens

Aaron Mesmer reports

- An Orlando man was arrested Tuesday evening after Tampa police say he attacked a flamingo at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with such force that the bird had to be euthanized.

Joseph Corrao, 45, was in the Jambo Junction animal viewing area Tuesday evening with his family, including his mother, his brother, and three teenage children.  That's when he allegedly grabbed one of the flamingos from its pen and set it down. Police say he grabbed a second bird -- even as his mother screamed for him to stop -- and threw that bird to the ground so hard that her leg was nearly severed.

Busch Gardens officials said the bird, named "Pinky," had to be euthanized.

Corrao was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty.  In court, Wednesday, a judge said the crime was "beyond senseless."

"It actually borders on depraved," the judge observed.  "Mr. Corrao, I don't know if you have other issues. I don't know who does that, I really don't. I don't relate to that on any level."

Pinky, 19, was a Chilean flamingo who hatched at the park in 1996. Her dancing movements made her one of the park's stars.

"Pinky loved to dance for our guests," said park spokesperson Karen Varga-Sinka. "Her keepers say that this is not a trained behavior, but a natural behavior she loved 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 performed this toe-tapping behavior out of the water for guests."

The park has 20 flamingoes, a mix of Chilean and Caribbean.

Pinky also appeared on behalf of the park's conservation and education efforts as an "ambassador animal."

"She will be sorely missed," Varga-Sinka added.

Park visitors on Wednesday were startled by the news.

"That's crazy," one man offered. "There's no explanation for something like that, why someone would grab a bird and just kill it for no reason."

Corrao, meanwhile, was released from jail early Wednesday on a $5,000 bond. Prosecutors said he had been released from prison in 2015 after serving time for aggravated assault, fleeing and eluding, and DUI convictions.  They also said he served six years in Army and relies on Social Security disability.

RELATED: Witness says man laughed as he grabbed Busch Gardens flamingoes

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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