Published on June 1, 2021
Most people look at the flock of flamingos and do not realize that each one has a different personality. Like kids in a classroom, some of them are ornery, some sweet, and some are even a bit shy. I’ve had the pleasure to work with the Tulsa Zoo flamingos since 2005. I was a docent, an intern, and eventually one of their keepers. As a Tulsa native, I have always been proud of the fact that I get to take care of some of the treasures of the Tulsa Zoo that I grew up with, like #61.
He was one of the first Caribbean Flamingos that came to the zoo in the early 1960s, fully grown. To our knowledge, he never took a mate or had offspring of his own, but he was always bonded to the other old 1960’s guys. We lovingly referred to the group as our ‘old men’ and I often called them the ‘Godfathers’ of the flamingo flock because no one could push them around. As they all aged, and most have since passed away, they would separate themselves from the chaos that younger birds often bring to the flock. While the couples would show off and nest in the yard, the older guys like #61 would quietly rest under the shady oak tree.
In the last few years, he and #68 would wander around the yard in the morning but make their way back inside right after the pool was cleaned. The keepers would always fill the pool slowly with warm water just for the old men and throw out extra krill for them to enjoy on their own. #61 never seemed rushed or in a hurry to do anything in life and I like to believe that is because he had already seen so much. Each of our animals has a small army that cares for them and in #61’s case, keepers, vet staff, docents, zooteens, interns…all going back 60 years! We are very sad by his loss but equally proud that we were a part of his life and that he was able to inspire several generations of visitors at the Tulsa Zoo.
– Karen Guess, Zookeeper