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Zookeeper beats to death ostrich then blames pony

Joshua Melvin · 27 Jun 2014, 14:09

Published: 27 Jun 2014 14:09 GMT+02:00

When an ostrich was found dead at a zoo in south-western France, workers immediately pointed the finger at one employee in particular.

The member of staff had a reputation for having a cruel streak towards both people and animals, but when confronted over the bird's death he directed the blame elsewhere.

The worker argued the ostrich had clearly been killed by the 38-year-old pony it shared a pen with at the zoo in La Teste-de-Buch, which is near the famed holidaying spot of Arcachon Bay.

But the zoo’s bosses didn’t buy the story and neither did law enforcement, who were brought in to investigate the March 2013 incident, French paper Sud Ouest reported.

Firstly the pony was past the age of bucking with any real force and plus the fatal blows to the bird were on its beak and head, so above the range of the pony’s hooves.  

The prosecutors' case was strengthened when one employee came forward to say they’d not only seen the man beat the bird to death, but had heard him brag about it. Other witnesses backed that version of events. Despite the details contradicting his story, the suspect, who has not been named, continued to claim innocence.

The evidence, however, was enough to convince a judge, who convicted the man this month of animal cruelty but also for workplace harassment, which stemmed from incidents prior to the killing.

The man was sentenced to six months behind bars, four of which were suspended, and ordered to pay €3,000 in damages over the bird’s death. At the start of the criminal case against him the worker was also fired from his job at the zoo which he'd held for 15 years.

In recent months The Local has reported on other bizarre and horrible cases of animal abuse in France.

Earlier this year a farmer’s children discovered the massacre of two dozen sheep in a barn.

And prior to that there was the case of a  man sent to jail for hanging his Lhassa Apso dog after it bit his 2-year-old daughter. The incident mobilized animal protection advocates in France.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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