North African Ostrich Recovery Project
With the exception of a few small savanna populations, the North African ostrich has completely disappeared from its previously vast Sahelo-Saharan range. SCF’s North African Ostrich Recovery Project aims to provide the framework, resources and technical support to restore to the wild this highly-adapted desert race of ostrich in Niger.
In 2007, SCF, The Saint Louis Zoo, the AZA Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group and a local Nigerien NGO called CERNK partnered on a groundbreaking effort to save the endangered North African ostrich and aid its recovery in Niger.
Our goal is to produce enough birds at SCF’s breeding facility in Kellé, Niger, to begin returning small numbers of ostrich safely to the wild in 2018.
Improve infrastructure, diet, care & awareness
Over the last decade, The North African Ostrich is certainly not a domestic bird and the project has faced a series of issues like egg fertility, chick survival, predation by crows, etc. With dedication and motivation, SCF and its partners have tremendously improved the infrastructure, the ration, the handling and the cares over the past decade, to enable the reproduction of the birds in captivity through natural and artificial incubation.
Beyond improving captive breeding conditions, SCF has been instrumental in raising awareness with the local community, in particular the young generations, and support for the development of a national strategy for the ostrich’s conservation.
Update the taxonomic status of the North African ostrich
The North African Ostrich Struthio camelus camelus is facing a similar fate to the Somali Ostrich Struthio molybdophanes with a rapid ongoing decline over the past 50 years due to hunting for feathers and food, egg collection and habitat loss. However, the ostrich as a whole is still listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List. These sub-species are lumped together as Struthio camelus with the far more common black and blue-necked ostriches.Beyond the conservation objectives, SCF and its partners are working to update the taxonomic status of this sub-species and to propose the North African ostrich be reclassified as a distinct species, like the Somali Ostrich. This taxonomic review is highly important since it would help raise more attention from the world conservation community and a larger public to the silent extinction of the North African ostrich, whose only viable population is located in Chad.
SCF is not alone in its efforts to breed and restore North African red-necked ostrich in Niger. There are at least two other private holders of ostrich (in Iférouane to the far north, and in Mainé Soroa to the east) attempting to produce chicks. Through SCF, action is underway to standardize the captive birds’ diet on a national scale, train the keepers and site managers at Mainé Sora and Iférouane to give them more autonomy regarding ostrich husbandry and veterinary care, and as infrastructure and experience grows in Kellé, offer artificial incubation service at Kellé to the satellite ostrich facilities, as a way to ramp up chick production in the future.
Train and partner
One of the main priorities outlined in the national strategy for ostrich conservation was to strengthen the knowledge and the skills base of the Nigerien partners involved in ostrich breeding to guarantee the sustainability of the ostrich recovery program. As a result, SCF requested the support of Marwell Wildlife and Dr Marie Petretto to carry out a training course in Niger at the Kellé breeding center.
It is the first time in Niger such an initiative, catalyzed by an international NGO, has been implemented and cosupported by the public and the private sectors, with the main goal of improving ostrich production for conservation and farming purposes. Following a workshop held in the United Kingdom in November 2016, the status of the ostrich was discussed at the Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group meeting in St Louis (Senegal) and agreement reached to elaborate an Action Plan to conserve the remaining populations of North African Ostrich within their historical range.
Innovate for more sustainability
A solar project generously supported by Stephen Gold from the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) progresses steadily, with the modification of five shipping containers to harbor the solar panels and provide a multi-functional breeding unit on site. The amount of electricity needed to run the station is significant, with several air conditioners, an incubator, two hatchers, a fridge, a freezer, lighting and office equipment.
As a result, three of the five containers have been designed by a multi-talented team to fulfill the requirements imposed by the need to run these modules in a very remote place, where the average temperature reaches over 100°F during the hot season. In all likelihood the solar infrastructures will be operational for the coming breeding season.
SCF extends its thanks to :
Jan Chauncey, Larry & Tony Johnson, Sara Hallager, Jimina ranch, OutBack Power Systems, Beronio Lumber, B and K Electrical, Jacksons Hardware, Pete Retondo AIA, Peter Amick Amick Construction, Michael Labate ESP Products, Stephen Attell AIA, George Bajada Bajada Electric, and Stephen Gold - Wildlife Conservation Network.