Sacramento Zoo mourns loss after ostrich with flair comes up lame

Marzipan, the Sacramento Zoo’s sweet-faced ostrich, had to be euthanized Monday when her severely fractured leg could not be repaired.

Zookeepers recalled the big bird having a face much like her name Marzipan, a confection made with sugar or honey.

“With her big brown eyes, she had a very sweet look to her,” said primary zookeeper for ungulates, Melissa McCarthy. “She was really special to me and the exhibit will have a little less flair without her.”

Marzipan came to the zoo in 2008 and shared an exhibit with three female Grevy’s zebras and two other ostriches. In Africa, ostriches roam among herds of antelope, zebra and cattle.

In such an arrangement, the ostriches with their long necks act as lookouts for predators, protecting the other animals. The hoofed animals stir up the seeds and insects for the ostriches to eat.

On Monday, the zoo’s male ostrich was pursing Marzipan and the other female ostrich around the exhibit in a typical breeding behavior, according to a zoo press release. Marzipan went to ground, which is a normal sign of submission.

However, once the male was moved off exhibit, keepers noticed that Marzipan could not stand. Zoo veterinarians and staff were able to anesthetize her and move the large bird to the veterinary hospital for an exam.

Radiographs revealed a fractured leg with small bone fragments. Zookeepers were forced to euthanize Marzipan.

A necropsy will be performed on the 21-year-old bird at the University of California, Davis.

“Marzipan was really special -- she enjoyed enrichment when we put it out, loved when keepers got the hose and gave her showers on hot days, and was just an all-around enthusiastic bird,” said McCarthy.

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