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In Search of Freedom, Lampoon's Ibis Flees to China

By Alan E. Wirzbicki, Special to The Crimson

BEIJING--Desperate to avoid a forced return to his old perch atop the Lampoon castle, the humor magazine's sacred ibis fled across the Pacific last week, flying through Siberia and North Korea before finally nesting in the snowy Chinese capital.

The royal ibis, tired and weather-worn but still defiant, said yesterday that he left North America after hearing rumors that he would soon be restored to the semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine.

Until he disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1996, the ibis, also known by his Latin name Ibis Threskiornis, was soldered to the onion-shaped dome of the Lampoon building. After the bird's reappearance in November, the fun-loving Lampoon dispatched its lawyer to retrieve the ibis from The Crimson, and the newspaper eventually agreed to return the mascot in time for the magazine's 125th anniversary celebration in early February.

The ibis fled for China immediately after learning of the secret agreement, he said yesterday.

Crimson editors hastily sent to Beijing in pursuit of the five-foot copper bird have so far been unable to convince Thresky to return to Cambridge.

Speaking from his roost in a rafter of the Forbidden City, the bird demanded that the Lampoon endorse the "One Ibis" policy before negotiations for reunification could begin. Thresky said he would return from China peacefully when the magazine removes the impostor ibis currently on top of the castle and publicly acknowledges his royal sovereignty, he said.

In the meantime, the ibis fluttered about Tiananmen Square this weekend, posing for pictures with gawking tourists on the vast plaza. He was later spotted nearby enjoying a helping of Peking Duck at a restaurant on Beijing's glamorous Wangfujing Street.

The cantankerous 92-year-old bird has led a storied life, and his flight from the Lampoon surprised few veteran Harvard ornithologists. The ibis has escaped from the Lampoon regularly over the years. This is his first known trip abroad, however, since his kidnapping as a hatchling in Egypt in 1909.

The Lampoon could not be reached for comment from Beijing last night.

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