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There’s something about Mary…the ostrich!

Posted on: 22 August, 2023

Press release

A new arrival at Bristol Zoo Project has been capturing the attention of visitors with her beautiful plumage, long limbs and not one, but three sets of eyelids.

Her name is Mary, and she’s a 19-year-old common ostrich, who has recently joined the zoo’s 21-year-old male, Drummer, from a zoo in Suffolk.

Although as common ostriches they are not threatened in the wild, Drummer and Mary have been brought to the attraction for an important reason. Together, they are part of plans to increase the number of species at Bristol Zoo Project, that are in need of conservation.

Over the next few years bird keepers plan to bring Critically Endangered North African red-necked ostriches to Bristol Zoo Project - increasing valuable experience from caring for common ostrich, before their arrival.

Trevor Franks, Curator of Birds at Bristol Zoo Project, explained: “The North African red-necked ostrich once had an expansive habitat across 18 African countries, however, hunting for food, egg collection and habitat destruction have rendered the animal Critically Endangered and it is now only found in six of these countries.

“We can work with Drummer and Mary to gain experience and understand these birds better to prepare us for the arrival of the North African red-necked ostriches in the coming years.”

Mary travelled the 250 miles from Africa Alive Zoological Park in a specially-adapted horsebox to join Drummer at the 136-acre attraction.

It is hoped the pair, who are both of breeding age, will go on to have offspring of their own. Keepers say signs are already looking positive.

Trevor added: “The pair have really settled into life together. It’s always a slightly tense time when you introduce two new animals who have never met one another, but it couldn’t have gone more smoothly.”

Drummer and Mary’s home is close to the entrance of Bristol Zoo Project. Visitors won’t miss them with Drummer’s plumage of bold black-and-white feathers and Mary’s plumage of brown feathers.

The ostrich is a large, flightless bird. They have long legs, a long featherless neck and long claws on their feet. They also have large eyes, helping them to spot predators from a long distance.

When ostrich chicks hatch, they are about the size of a chicken but by six months they will have already grown nearly as tall as their parents.

Owned by Bristol Zoological Society, Bristol Zoo Project will become a new conservation zoo over the coming years, where around 80 percent of animals will be linked to its conservation work.

Construction is expected to start in 2024 and will include the creation of new spaces for animals with new species, visitor facilities, exciting play areas and a conservation campus for students, vets and the breeding of threatened animals.

As well as seeing Drummer and Mary this summer, along with other new residents - two Philippine spotted deer - visitors can also take part in Bristol Zoo Project’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar trail.

Running until Sunday 3 September, the interactive trail - inspired by Eric Carle’s bestselling book - recreates the popular children’s story which sees the caterpillar eating its way through different foods.

A series of super-sized, larger-than-life 3D installations with augmented reality will be waiting to be walked under and climbed through around the 136-acre zoo site, as well as giant cocoon swings and a caterpillar slide. There will also be the chance for people to get selfies with a huge, beautiful butterfly.