HIALEAH, Fla. - The disappearance of baby flamingos at Hialeah Park is now being investigated as a crime.
The weeks-old flamingos disappeared from the flock at the racetrack sometime between 7 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday, Hialeah Park officials said.
Federal wildlife investigators said they have evidence of a poaching theft and said the flamingos can fetch from $500 to $1,000 each on the black market. They said the criminal enterprise is thriving in South Florida.
"Everything would indicate that a theft did occur," said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Now it's a matter of proving that it did occur, and how it occurred and who did it."
"It's devastating to us. This is our history, our legacy out here. The birds have been here forever," said Hialeah Park Vice President Dennis Testa.
The flamingos have called the racetrack home for the better part of this century.
Wildlife officials said they have no doubt that the 45 to 50 flamingo chicks were stolen to be sold.
"The exotic pet trade is a problem," said Pino. "It's a very profitable thing to be involved in if you're a thief."
"I don't know how they would have done it or why they did it," said Testa.
Park officials said whoever took the birds trespassed on an unauthorized section of the park.
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