Utica Zoo mourns death of ostriches

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The Utica Zoo has announced the death of its two female ostriches, Bina and Bushara. The ostriches were discovered by animal caretakers on Thursday, and it is believed it may have been a result of aggression by their exhibit mate, a male Hartmann’s mountain zebra.

The zoo’s male ostrich and the two male zebras in the exhibit space have been separated from each other.

The trio of ostriches and pair of zebras had been living together in their exhibit space at the zoo for seven years in what zoological experts describe as a “common and natural pairing.” Cohabitating animals in the same exhibit space carries numerous benefits to the animals, including mental and physical enrichment. These benefits are believed to outweigh most risks that could be associated with cohabitation.

The animal care staff had been monitoring occurrences of aggression between the two male zebras and had been consulting with additional experts for further insight. Aggression between male equine species is common and a natural behavior. The zoo’s animal care staff was advised to allow the zebras to work through their aggressions, however, there was no cause to believe this aggression would be redirected towards the ostriches.

“At this time, the ostrich and zebra exhibit has been closed off to visitors to allow for veterinary observation. The staff of the Utica Zoo mourns the loss of Bina and Bushara and will miss them dearly,” the zoo said in a statement.

Mark Simon, visitor experience and marketing manager for the Utica Zoo, said “Whether in the wild or under human care, animals can be truly unpredictable. This was a tragic accident. While the Utica Zoo team processes the emotional impact of this atypical incident, we are also debriefing with other industry experts to determine the next steps.”

Prior to the incident, the zoo was partnering with another facility as part of a breeding recommendation for one of the male zebras to leave, and the plans are ongoing.

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