Members of the Utica community were made aware today of two tragic deaths, both female ostriches at the zoo.

You may have seen these two ladies, named Bina and Bushara, when visiting the Utica Zoo. They cohabitated with another male ostrich, as well as two male zebras. According to the zoo, the ostriches and 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.

Unfortunately, animal caretakers discovered the deaths on Thursday morning. It is believed it may have been a result of aggression by their exhibit mate, one of the male Hartmann’s mountain zebras.

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.”

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The zoo’s male ostrich and the 2 male zebras in the exhibit space have been separated from each other. Prior to this event, 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.

The zoo also says that agression in the male equine species is something that is common. 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. Those two ladies always seemed really happy, prancing around in their eternal glory, and they'll definitely be missed.