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Posted by Tara Henson on 01/20/2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                              January 20, 2014

CONTACTS:        Tara Henson:  (405) 425-0219, office; (405) 919-9038, cell; or [email protected]

Candice Rennels:  (405) 425-0298, office; (405) 412-6172, cell; or [email protected]



Marsha, a 32-year-old female black rhinoceros, died during a medical exam Sunday morning, January 19, 2014, at the Oklahoma City Zoo.  Over the last week, Marsha had become lethargic with a decreased appetite.  Animal Care staff made the decision to perform a thorough physical exam. She was given supportive care including fluids, pain medication and antibiotics to keep her comfortable and she started showing signs of improvement.  Over the weekend she had a relapse and the decision was made to perform a second exam from which she did not survive. A necropsy, animal autopsy, has been performed and although results are pending, preliminary reports point to age-related issues as the cause of her illness. 

“Our caretakers know their animals and, in Marsha’s case, their keen observations helped us identify there was a problem early on,” said Laura Bottaro, Animal Curator. “The Veterinary and Animal team’s goal was to keep Marsha as comfortable as possible.”   

The combined median life expectancy for male and female black rhinos is approximately 17.8 years. Advances in veterinary medicine, nutrition, husbandry techniques and habitation have enabled animals to live longer in zoos and aquariums around the nation.

Marsha came to the Zoo in September 1999 from Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago. She was born at the San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio. During her time at the Zoo, Marsha was recommended to breed as part of the Black Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), but she never had any offspring. 

Marsha lived at the Zoo’s pachyderm habitat with fellow black rhino Rudisha “Rudy” and Indian rhinos Niki and Chandra, and was known for being an avid painter. Marsha enjoyed the enriching exercise of painting with her caretakers and contributed many masterpieces to the Zoo’s annual Art Gone Wild, animal art show that supports conservation.  She will be missed by the Zoo family.

Black rhinos are critically endangered due to poaching and their numbers in the wild are dwindling at a significant rate. As part of the Zoo’s Conservation Action Now (CAN) initiatives, the Zoo is dedicated to supporting rhino conservation both locally and globally.

If you would like to share your memories of Marsha, please visit the Zoo’s Facebook fan page at

We have created a page at to remember Marsha.



EDITOR’S NOTE:  Photos of Marsha are available upon request.

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