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Flaco The Owl Lives On... As A Tattoo

HOST, CLAIRE DAVENPORT: Flaco, the owl who escaped from the Central Park Zoo last year, died in February. In Flaco’s 13 months of freedom, his story of survival captivated a lot of people. Since Flaco’s death, New Yorkers have come up with all sorts of ways to commemorate the bird.

HOST, PASCAL HOGUE: Some are so devoted to keeping the memory of Flaco alive they decided to get a reminder of him permanently inked on their skin. Giulia Leo attended the hottest — and arguably cutest — tattoo event of the season.

LEO 1:

A long line of people stretches between Freeman St. and Manhattan Ave despite the rain this morning. The line begins right outside East River Tattoo, a tattoo studio located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And everybody is here for the same reason.


Flaco the owl.





LEO 2:

More specifically, they want to get Flaco permanently inked on their skin.

East River tattoo offers flash tattoo days every once in a while – they’re days where customers can pick between a limited selection of pre-made designs and get them tattooed for a discounted price.

And people are making all kinds of sacrifices to get inked from East River Tattoo artist Duke Riley.


You got here early, skipping work…


Yeah I think for me I really appreciate Duke Riley as an artist. And I think it’s a really unique opportunity to get one of his designs on my body.

LEO 4:

Tattoos like this usually cost several hundreds dollars, but today, Flaco devotees pay 150 dollars. There is an option to get a tattoo of Flaco’s name, of his face, or of his full figure. When Charlie Connell looked at the designs available, he had no doubt.


I want the chubby guy. I’m going with the chubby one, he’s all puffed out and looks somewhat angry.

LEO 5:

His reason for getting the tattoo?


I like howls and Flaco was cool.

LEO 6:

To others, Flaco is not just a cool bird. What many find inspirational about his story is that Flaco, who lived in captivity at the zoo for a dozen years, was able to survive on his own for a full year outside of captivity. And although he could have gone back to the zoo because owls have the ability to orient themselves through mental maps, he chose to be on his own.


I think it’s a sort of cultural phenomenon because people are looking at this story and applying it to their own life, trying to find ways that they can break free from their own kind of restraints and live the kind of life they want even if it means, as it was the case for Flaco, having some degree of compromise.

LEO 7:

That’s Jonathan Hollingsworth, and he came to the tattooing event to conduct his own research about Flaco. He is not getting a tattoo today, but he is a firm believer in the power of Flaco’s story.

LEO 8:

And so Flaco is both a human symbol but also a New York symbol?


I think he’s a universal symbol. We New Yorkers cling to him as one of our own but, when we lost Flaco, his death wasn’t just here in the city but it was something that was felt around the world. People have been following this story for a year.

LEO 9:

Megan Mitchell agrees. She is from Glasgow, Scotland and she heard about the Flaco-themed event on the radio. She is only visiting New York, but she is no stranger to the story of Flaco.


I think the sparrow of Flaco flew across the whole of the world, straight to Scotland. And he was such a fater, and even toward the end of his days. He was just really raddled with it so much, but he just kept going.

LEO 10:

And where are you getting Flaco on your body, do you know?


I think I’ll get him on my arm so everyone can see him in the summer.

LEO 11:

And so Flaco will get to see another summer.

Giulia Leo, Columbia Radio News.


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