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    Two months before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, two young ladies — Left Yellow 5 and Left Yellow 6 — settled into a gated wading area at the Louisville Zoo.  With 40 to the flock, monikers are practical. No sense in being cute. (A female wears an identifying band on her left leg, a male does so on the right leg.) On an ice-cold December afternoon nearly 50 years later, two zookeepers lean on a chain-link fence and grip binoculars, scanning the pink, fluffy crowd for the only two animals who’ve been at the Louisville Zoo since May 1969, the month it officially opened.

    Left Yellow 5 and Left Yellow 6 arrived here from…somewhere. Record keeping wasn’t so great in ’69. They’ve had seven chicks between them and a whole mess of grand-chicks. At 53 years old, they don’t look noticeably different than the younger birds they mingle with.

    Something about these two gals has me daydreaming about Dorothy, Rose and Blanche. Perhaps LY5 and LY6 should bunk up à la The Golden Girls, head for a different kind of gated community down in Florida. (They’d have to hitch a ride, though, because captive flamingos have clipped wings.) But zookeeper Craig Mikel says flamingos don’t really form strong bonds. In fact, they’re sort of skittish and fickle.

    Despite the opening credits to ’80s sitcoms — specifically Miami Vice and Three’s Company — flamingos don’t rely on sunny coastal weather to survive. LY5 and LY6 are Chilean flamingos, a species that endures the cold while flying through the frosted peaks of the Andes Mountains, Mikel says.  (Keepers bring the flock indoors when the temperature gets into single digits.) In the wild, flamingos can live up to 50 years. One captive flamingo in Australia lived to 83. Last flamingo fact: On average they stand about 50 inches tall but only weigh five to eight pounds. “They’re mostly feathers and legs,” Mikel says.

    LY5 and LY6 have been around so long that many Louisville Zoo employees didn’t realize the pair had been hanging around for a half-century. But as the zoo was making plans to mark its 50th anniversary this year, somebody did the math. In 2019, it’s fair to assume that Left Yellow 5 and Left Yellow 6 will get their 15 minutes — a little fanfare for the zoo’s most tenured twosome.

    This originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Two Old Birds." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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