Turkmenian markhorti dies after headbutt at Hogle Zoo

Dusti. Photo: Hogle Zoo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 15, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah’s Hogle Zoo experienced an unfortunate turn of events when a Turkmenian markhor — an exotic Asian goat-like species — passed away from injuries incurred during a sparring match with a fellow male markhor.

The sparring match happened late Friday morning, a statement from the Hogle Zoo says.

“The Zoo’s veterinary team was immediately called while other animal care team members performed CPR on 7-year-old Dusti. While it’s unclear exactly what happened during the sparring match, the necropsy (animal autopsy) showed signs of immediate death, likely from a head butt or broken neck.”

Dusti’s keeper said the loss will be felt.

“It was a sad shock for us to rush over there and find him gone,” said markhor keeper, Rachel Blake. “Dusti is definitely going to be missed. There will be a big hole in the herd.”

Being a herd animal, markhor are most comfortable living in groups. Sparring is a natural behavior in markhor both in zoos and in the wild, the Hogle Zoo statement says. “They use their large spiral horns to establish hierarchy, play, or assert dominance.”

The Zoo’s markhor engage in sparring behavior multiple times a day and Zoo guests seem to enjoy watching these demonstrations of strength and agility, the statement says.

“It’s a natural behavior,” said Blake. “It’s how they interact. They’re always challenging one another.”

Dusti lived with two other males who came to the Zoo in 2015.

“We’re checking on the other two and they seem to be handling it okay so far. They’re taking treats and eating,” said Blake. “But they’re going to have to figure out the dynamics in the herd. Anytime an animal leaves the herd they have to figure out new dynamics.”

Turkmenian markhor are a large goat-like species native to central Asia and the Himalayas. They have large spiral horns and broad hooves, specially adapted to live in mountainous terrain – between 2,000 and 12,000 feet. The Zoo’s exhibit is designed with multiple climbing areas and rocky hillsides, mimicking their native terrain.

The Zoo has maintained an all-male herd since the arrival of this species and as such actively participates in the AZA (Assoc. of Zoos and Aquariums) Species Survival Plan breeding program for markhor.

Dusti. Photo: Hogle Zoo

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