A New Feathery Female Friend

By Leslie Field, Animal Care Supervisor

Have you seen the ostriches at the Zoo? Our ostriches live in the same exhibit with the Zebras. These large flightless birds mix well with African hoof stock and can live into their 40's. You can tell the difference between the male and female by their colors; the male is feathered with black and white plumes and the female with brown feathers.

When our female ostrich died, we decided to get another female "friend" as a companion for our male. The plans to pick her up became a family affair, when I got my husband Andy to volunteer his skills from hauling our three horses.

When we arrived to pick up Marzipan, she was already sectioned off with another female in the herd waiting our arrival. Once our trailer was lined up with their ostrich chute, she was led into the trailer, with hay and horse mats to cushion her ride. Then, off to the Sacramento Zoo we went.

We easily unloaded her into our veterinary hospital for her quarantine (every animal coming on Zoo grounds must complete at least a 30 day quarantine period). After all her medical tests, and a clean bill of health, zoo keepers arranged for her introduction to the zebra exhibit. To introduce her to our male ostrich, the zebras were moved to an off-exhibit holding area and the female ostrich was herded up the hoof stock work road from the veterinary hospital. She spent a number of hours next to our male ostrich separated by a fence, so they could get to know each other. The pair was then put together in the exhibit while the new female got the lay of the land. The next day, the zebras were allowed back in the exhibit and since then all has gone very well.

Come meet our new female ostrich next time you are at the Zoo. And don’t get them confused with the emus in the Australian Outback. Emus are smaller, they have mostly all brown-grey feathers, plus they are native to Australia unlike their African cousins.
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