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Karen, the ‘vibrant and beloved’ ostrich at Topeka Zoo, dies after swallowing zoo staffer’s keys

Facebook / Topeka Zoo

(TOPEKA, Kan.) — Karen, a “vibrant and beloved” ostrich who made her home at the Topeka Zoo, has died after swallowing a zoo staffer’s set of keys, zoo officials said.


The untimely passing was announced by the Topeka Zoo on Friday after Karen “tragically succumbed to complications arising from consuming a foreign object.”

“The circumstances surrounding Karen’s passing serve as a solemn reminder of the importance of vigilance and care in maintaining the safety of our animal inhabitants. In this instance, Karen reached beyond her exhibit fence to grab the keys of a staff member,” the Topeka Zoo said in their announcement. “She immediately swallowed the keys.”

Officials from the zoo consulted with experts across the country to undergo surgical and non-surgical efforts to minimize the impact of the keys but these efforts ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.

“The Topeka Zoo remains committed to ensuring the well-being of all our animals, implementing rigorous protocols to safeguard against such incidents in the future,” officials said.

Karen had been an “adored resident” of the Topeka Zoo since the opening of Giraffe & Friends in March of 2023, the zoo said. Karen was known for her water loving habits “like swimming in the pool, playing in the sprinkler, and, best of all, being our ‘dancing queen’” and the zoo said that guests and staff were able to form “deep connections with her, captivated by her playful antics.”

In the aftermath of Karen’s death, the Topeka Zoo said they have conducted a “thorough investigation” and is taking appropriate actions regarding the team member involved.

The zoo also confirmed that they will be reviewing and enhancing its protocols to further strengthen the safety measures in place for all its animal residents.

“We are devastated by the loss of Karen,” expressed Fawn Moser, interim director of the Topeka Zoo. “She was not just an animal; she was a beloved member of our community. Our thoughts are with our dedicated animal care team, who formed deep bonds with Karen during her time with us.”

Said the zoo: “The Topeka Zoo extends its deepest gratitude to the community for their outpouring of support during this difficult time.”

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