Ostrich named Karen dies after stealing and eating zoo worker’s keys, Kansas zoo says

A “playful” and “beloved” ostrich named Karen has died after eating keys belonging to an employee at a Kansas zoo, officials say.

Karen, a vibrant and beloved ostrich, tragically succumbed to complications arising from consuming a foreign object,” the Topeka Zoo said in an April 19 Facebook post.

Karen was a relatively new addition, having joined the zoo a little more than a year ago, in March 2023, the zoo said. Despite this, she quickly made an impression on staff and visitors.

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!’” officials said. “Zoo guests and staff alike formed deep connections with her, captivated by her playful antics.”

Karen’s “untimely passing” comes after she swallowed a set of keys, the zoo said. The bird was inside her exhibit when she reached past a fence, snatched the keys and “immediately swallowed” them.

The zoo consulted with experts about surgical and non-surgical options to help Karen, but “these efforts were unsuccessful.”

“We are devastated by the loss of Karen,” Fawn Moser, Interim Director of the Topeka Zoo, said. “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.”

Following Karen’s death, the zoo will be strengthening safety measures for its animals, officials said.

“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,” staff said.

Many commenters offered condolences to the zoo’s staff, and thanked them for being open about Karen’s cause of death.

“The Topeka Zoo extends its deepest gratitude to the community for their outpouring of support during this difficult time,” officials said.

Topeka is a roughly 60-mile drive west of Kansas City.

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