Red-necked ostrich reintroduction efforts

We are delighted to report the great success of the first ostrich offspring born and raised by their parents in Sidi Toui national park in Tunisia, near the Libyan border.

This is a major step forward for the conservation of this important species and a great achievement following six years of ongoing red-necked ostrich reintroduction efforts in Tunisia.

Since the early 1990s, Marwell Wildlife continues to join forces with the Tunisian Direction Générale des Forêts, park managers and animal keepers, resulting in the first releases and breeding of the largest and biggest subspecies of ostrich in three fenced protected areas. Our long-term commitment enables us to build local capacity and gain experience about the red-necked ostrich’s biological requirements.

Once very abundant in North Africa, this flightless bird is virtually extinct in much of its previous range. It is now restricted to a few fragmented populations in southern Sahara in very low numbers. In Tunisia, it suffered from past over-hunting and loss of habitat, and its return is part of a wider national program of ecosystem restoration in aridlands through a network of parks and reserves set on the fringe of the Oriental Great Erg.

The Marwell team is providing on-the-ground support whilst collecting essential information on individuals and the population’s current status. Building on the traditional farming skills that most of the local guards possess, we are training local teams to provide essential ostrich husbandry and flock monitoring. By involving many independent protected areas in this reintroduction project, we are able to mitigate the potential risk of failure due to local constraints like drought, seasonal over-predation or disease outbreak, that are likely to naturally happen in ecosystems with high temporal variability.

The Tunisian metapopulation has now grown to over 65 individuals, of which two thirds are mature adults. Our scientists are following the reproduction management closely in order to maximise the genetic diversity and increase the chance of subspecies survival.

This achievement is inspirational and engaging. In the coming months we are expecting more hatching in Dghoumes national park and ostriches will be translocated into additional protected areas.

Marwell Wildlife is proud to be part of this successful long-term collaboration with Tunisia. We will continue to share updates on the project progress, so watch this space!

To read more about the re-introduction programme visit https://www.marwell.org.uk/conservation/news/6/the-return-of-the-long-lost-north-african-ostrich-to-tunisia

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