North African Ostrich returns to breed in the Western Sahara, southern Morocco, after it went extinct there more than 50 years ago.
The North African or Red-necked Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus) is the largest Ostrich subspecies. It roamed West and North Africa before its local extinction from most of its former range. Currently, it’s ‘Critically Endangered’ (however, the parent species – Common Ostrich – is not endangered).
In order to save the North African Ostrich, reintroduction projects have been launched in a number of countries where the species went extinct (e.g. Morocco and Tunisia) or severely declined (e.g. Sahel countries).
In this context, the Moroccan Forestry Administration (HCEFLCD) started the first phase of the reintroduction of Sahelo-Saharan species. With its local partners (NGOs and elected bodies), the HCEFLCD created the Safia Acclimatization Reserve in 2008.
The North African Ostrich along with two other Sahelo-Saharan flagship species, namely the Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) and the Dama gazelle (Nanger dama mhorr), were reintroduced to the Safia reserve, located in the rural commune of Bir Guendouz. All these species are now almost fully acclimatized and breed in the wild (semi-captivity) in good conditions.
While the initial phase of the reintroduction project is successful, it’s too soon to judge the long-term success of the project (illegal hunting remains widespread in the region, despite the efforts
The stock of the North African Ostrich comes from the Souss Massa National Park and Rmila reserve at Marrakech.
It should be noted also that in 2008, some 20 North African Ostrich chicks were also reintroduced to the national parks of southern Tunisia from the Souss Massa National Park.
Regarding the reintroduction project in Tunisia: some birds were released into the Dghoumes National Park in 2014, and two other groups were translocated to an acclimatisation enclosure in Sidi Toui National Park and to Orbata Faunal Reserve respectively. For more details, please see the links to the website of Marwell Wildlife in the comments section below.
When I first wrote this blog-post, the word ‘launched’ was written as ‘lunched’, which was funny mistake because the ostriches can be lunched (eaten at lunch!) as well. Laurie, a blog follower, commented in June 2013: “’lunched’ – I like it”. At the time, I didn’t notice the mistake so I didn’t understand his comment and didn’t reply. I only noticed the mistake when I wrote about the Namaqua Doves seen at Safia reserve during the release operation of Dama gazelle.