Bristol Zoo Project welcomes new arrival Mary the ostrich

Mary, recognisable by her plumage of brown feathers, has joined 21-year-old Drummer at the zoo. Credit: Bristol Zoological Society

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

Mary, a 19-year-old common ostrich, recently joined the zoo's 21-year-old male, Drummer, from a zoo in Suffolk.

In total, she has travelled around 250 miles from Suffolk's Africa Alive Zoological Park in a specifically adapted horsebox to join Drummer in her new home near the entrance of Bristol Zoo Project.

With the pair both of breeding age, keepers hope they will soon have offspring of their own and say the signs are already looking positive.

Trevor Franks, Curator of Birds at Bristol Zoo, said it was "slightly tense" when Mary and Drummer first met each other.

"But the pair have really settled into life together. It couldn't have gone more smoothly."

Staff at the zoo say the pair are getting on well Credit: Bristol Zoological Society

Together, the birds are part of wider plans to increase the number of at-risk species at the Bristol Zoo Project.

While common ostriches are not threatened in the wild, the hope is that caring for them will help keepers prepare for the arrival of Critically Endangered North African red-necked ostriches in the coming years.

Trevor explained: "We can work with Drummer and Mary to gain experience and understand these birds to better prepare us for their arrival."

North African red-necked ostriches once had an expansive habitat across eighteen African countries, but habitat destruction and problems hunting for food have rendered the animal Critically Endangered. It is now only found in six African countries.

Over the coming years, the Bristol Zoo Project will become a new conservation zoo, where around 80 per cent of animals will be linked to its conversation work.

Construction is expected to start in 2024 and will include the creation of a new conservation campus for students, vets, and the breeding of threatened animals.