UTICA, N.Y. – Utica Zoo staff members are mourning the loss of two female ostriches, Bina and Bushara, who were found dead in their exhibit space Thursday morning.
Zoo officials say their deaths may have been “a result of aggression by their exhibit mate, a male Hartmann’s mountain zebra.”
The remaining male ostrich and two male zebras in the exhibit space, have since been separated.
“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,” said Mark Simon, visitor experience and marketing manager at the zoo.
The ostriches and zebras have shared the same exhibit space for seven years. Zoo officials say putting animals together helps with mental and physical enrichment, and ostriches and zebras cohabitating is a “common and natural pairing.”
The animal caretakers were advised to allow the zebras to work through any aggressions, which are common in male equine species. Officials say there was no cause to believe the zebra's aggression would be redirected towards the ostriches.
The zoo staff is monitoring the behavior of the male zebras, and has been consulting with experts.
The ostrich and zebra exhibit is closed to visitors at this time.