HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (AP) — A 19-year-old college student on a scavenger hunt has been charged with snatching a Chilean Flamingo from a Mississippi zoo in what police say was a prank gone wrong.
Hattiesburg police spokesman Lt. Jon Traxler said Devin Nottis of Pascagoula is charged with grand larceny. The University of Southern Mississippi student was arrested Wednesday night.
USM responded Thursday by suspending Nottis and the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity of which he is a member.
“This is a terrible and heinous act that has occurred, and inconsistent with the values of our institution,” USM Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul said in a statement.
The executive director of the organization that runs the Hattiesburg Zoo said the female bird was taken at 1:08 a.m. Tuesday and located several miles away. Rick Taylor said it was returned to the zoo and had to be put down because of its injuries.
Hattiesburg police said the students were part of a school fraternity scavenger hunt but Nottis decided to take the flamingo instead of take a photo of the bird.
Police said security cameras captured images of six people, including Nottis. Traxler said the investigation is continuing.
It was a college activity that went bad, Taylor said.
Taylor said a second flamingo died Wednesday from injuries sustained during the attack. He said zoo officials believe the male flamingo died from injuries sustained while defending his mate during the attack.
Paul said Nottis is prohibited from campus for any reason other than judicial proceedings with the University’s Dean of Students Office and is subject to arrest if found in violation of this order.
He said the fraternity has been ordered to cease all activities until further notice by the university. In addition, the national office of the fraternity has placed the chapter on administrative suspension, requiring that it cease operations for 30 days while executive officers determine its future, Paul said.