The North African Ostrich makes a comeback from near extinction

Published date23 January 2023
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Almost every day, inspectors and caretakers of the Hai Bar Nature Reserve meet him in the areas of the reserve and are excited to see his independent integration with the other ostriches and wild animals roaming the area

Franco's story is particularly exciting since his hatching occurred in an artificial hatchery for wild animals, which gives hope to the joint recovery efforts of the species that the Nature and Parks Authority is promoting, together with the corresponding agencies in the country of Senegal, after this species went all but entirely extinct in the wild.

An artificial hatchery for ostrich eggs

The joint project with Senegal began in recent years under the leadership of Roni Malka, a retiree of the Nature and Parks Authority and former director of the Authority's enforcement division. It came after DNA tests revealed that the ostriches in the Hai Bar Nature Reserve are almost identical to the subspecies that lives in Senegal.

The North African ostrich (Struthio c. Camelus) is one of four extant subspecies of ostrich. This race of ostrich once inhabited the entire periphery of the Sahara both north and south but is now facing a rapid ongoing decline over the past 50 years due to hunting for feathers and food, collection of their eggs and the loss of their habitat.

With the launch of the international cooperation to save the species, an artificial hatchery for the ostrich eggs was established in the wildlife reserve, with the aim to create a significant local breeding nucleus and support Senegal to establish one of its own, based on ostrich eggs from Israel. This is meant to, among other things, enable Senegal to also return them to the wild in suitable reserves on its territory and thereby recover their population, which is in danger of extinction.

In the Hai Bar Nature Reserve about 30 red-necked ostriches have been bred and the survival and fertility of the ostrich eggs in the wild are generally not high. Therefore, a number of eggs that have been transferred so far from Israel to Senegal in a controlled manner have mostly not hatched successfully. Meanwhile, the challenge is how eggs hatched in an artificial hatchery can integrate into nature.

However, the story of...

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