Sleep over held the night zoo's bird cages were vandalized - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

School sleep over held the night zoo's bird cages were vandalized

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii News Now has learned there was a sleep over group of students at the Honolulu Zoo Monday night when someone cut two dozen bird cages there, setting three birds free.

The birds escaped sometime between 6:30 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. Bird keepers are trying to lure them back with food and members of their own species in special cages, so far without success. 

"They're pretty hungry, I presume, and thirsty.  And hopefully somebody can find them or we can still locate them on grounds," said Tommy Higashino, the assistant director of Honolulu Zoo. 

Higashino said a junior high school group held a sleep over on zoo grounds Monday night when someone cut the birds' cages. 

About 30 students and chaperones from Our Savior Lutheran School in Aiea spent the night in tents on the zoo's back lawn, near the snack bar and fairly far away from the bird cages, according to Ted Otaguro, executive director of the Honolulu Zoo Society. 

The society, which is the nonprofit support group for the zoo, charges $55 to $60 per person for its overnight "Snooze In The Zoo" program, which includes a zoo tour, pizza, breakfast and a morning stroll.  

Zoo procedures require a paid staff person to be on duty over night to keep watch over sleep over groups, and the chaperone didn't see or hear anything suspicious, Higashino said.  

"We have a staff that's on all night, monitoring their activities, ensuring that they remain on the back long and they don't wander," he said. 

"Fortunately for us, we have a few retirees.  A former mammal curator, former zookeepers that are familiar with our procedures and our animals and they are the ones who are being tapped to be chaperones," Higashino said. 

The school group was composed of 6th and 7th graders, who zoo officials say would most likely have been too short to cut holes nearly six feet high in the bird cages. 

Other zoo employees suspect mentally ill homeless people who live near the zoo could have done the crime, sneaking into the zoo after hours or hiding at the zoo until nightfall. 

The zoo is now beefing up security overnight by adding a second guard to the overnight shift. 

"We need to try and deter any further copycats or even the same person perpetrating similar crimes," Higashino said. 

Previously the zoo didn't have security checkpoints near the birds, fearful that guards' flashlights would scare them. 

"Once they roost at night, you don't really want to disturb them otherwise they may get excited, fly up, break their necks or get scalped," Higashino said. 

As a result of Monday's incident, the zoo has added a couple of overnight guard security checkpoints at the perimeter of the bird exhibits so the area will be checked with regularity, Higashino added.

The missing birds are worth about $1,200.  It will cost between $15,000 to $24,000 to replace the damaged screens on the bird cages, Higashino said.

The missing birds are a buff-headed ground dove, a red Eclectus parrot and a gray tawny frogmouth.  The dove and the parrot have been seen on zoo grounds in the last two days, but the frogmouth has not been spotted since Monday night's incident.

Anyone who has seen the birds is asked to call the Honolulu Zoo at (808) 971-7174. 

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Vandals strike Honolulu Zoo, exotic birds missing

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