The deaths of two ostriches at New York’s Utica Zoo are thought to have been caused by an aggressive Hartmann’s mountain zebra stallion, who shared their exhibit space.
The two female ostriches, Bina and Bushara, were discovered by animal caretakers on Thursday morning, September 10. The zoo’s remaining male ostrich and the two male zebras in the exhibit space have now been separated from each other, and the exhibit space has been closed off to visitors to allow for veterinary observation. Before the deaths, Utica Zoo was preparing to send one of the stallions to another facility as part of a breeding recommendation. Those plans are ongoing.
“Whether in the wild or under human care, animals can be truly unpredictable. This was a tragic accident,” said Mark Simon, Visitor Experience and Marketing Manager for the Utica Zoo.
“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.”
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 aggression, but there was no cause to believe this would be directed towards the ostriches.