North African Ostrich returns to W. Sahara after decades of absence

North African Ostrich returns to breed in Western Sahara, southern Morocco, after it went extinct there almost 50 years ago.

North African Ostriches  / Autruches à cou rouge (Struthio camelus camelus), Safia reserve, May 2013 (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).
North African Ostriches (Struthio camelus camelus), Safia reserve, May 2013 (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).

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 classified as ‘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 Mhorr 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 (Marrakech).

Red-necked Ostriches / Autruches à cou rouge (Struthio camelus camelus), Safia reserve, May 2013 (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).
Red-necked Ostriches / Autruches à cou rouge (Struthio camelus camelus), Safia reserve, May 2013 (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).

Reintroduction in Tunisia

In 2008, some 20 North African Ostrich chicks were transferred to the national parks of southern Tunisia from the Souss Massa National Park.

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, see the links to the website of Marwell Wildlife in the comments section below.

Red-necked Ostriches in the Western Sahara, southern Morocco, during the Spanish colonial era before the extinction of the species in the region // Autruches à cou rouge dans le Sahara occidental, sud du Maroc, pendant l’époque coloniale espagnole avant l'extinction de l’espèce de la région (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).
North African Ostriches in the Western Sahara, southern Morocco, during the Spanish colonial era before the extinction of the species in the region. /
Autruches à cou rouge dans le Sahara occidental, sud du Maroc, pendant l’époque coloniale espagnole avant l’extinction de l’espèce de la région (Association ‘Nature Initiative’).

3 thoughts on “North African Ostrich returns to W. Sahara after decades of absence”

    1. Thanks Marie for your comment and the information about the introduction programme in Tunisia. (I approved the comment and added an update to the blog 2 weeks ago, but forgot to reply here).

      Mohamed

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