Are Ostriches Endangered Species? (Challenges Faced By Ostrich Population)

With humans taking over the Earth, too many species of plants, birds, and animals are suffering. The smaller, more vulnerable species are affected badly but we have to stop and think about the more resilient species as well.

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Intro Video - Backtobirds

I remember a trip to South Africa a few years ago. We were out in the Serengeti for a safari and saw an unforgettable scene.

Two lions were chasing a large ostrich, trying to jump on it and make it a meal. But this ostrich was an incredibly fast runner! With a few strong kicks and turns, it injured the lions enough to escape.

Seeing this, I asked the ranger – “If lions can’t kill an ostrich, what can?” He replied by saying that even though ostriches are extremely resilient birds, there are not many left in the wild. These birds have been the target of mass shootings and encroachment of their habitat among other problems. 

Are ostriches endangered?

There are several species of ostriches. Depending on the place where they reside and their status in the area, they have different population statuses and hence are classified differently on the scale of extinction to least concern.

  • The common ostrich is treated as a species of Least Concern by IUCN and BirdLife International due to its large range of land coverage. 
  • On the other hand, The Northern African Ostrich population has declined to the point where some institutions consider it Critically Endangered

It has been noticed that this data, though officially accepted, does not show the true and dire conditions of the ostriches. The area of residence of these birds is wide, including the wild as well as huge breeding farms. 

They are, in a way, considered the same way as humans, rats, or dogs – species that seem to have large populations because they live in so many places.

In reality, some of the sub-species live only in small pockets around the world and might face extinction if not cared for.

Only 5 of the 9 original ostrich species like the Somali, Masai, and North African Ostrich exist today

How many ostriches are left in the world?

The total ostriches in the wild amount to less than 1,50,000 today. Adding to the population in the wild, many countries domesticate ostriches for their feathers and meat. 

On a scale where the best situation is ‘Least Concern’ and worst is ‘Extinct’, ostriches lie in the middle i.e. ‘Endangered’. This means that if their population is not taken care of, there is a big chance of them dying out. 

How many countries protect ostriches?

Today, ostriches are native to only Africa where they reside in open arid or semi-arid habitats like Savanna and the woodlands i.e. both North and South of the Equatorial Forest Zone. 

Related Read: Do ostriches live in desert?

There are protected areas in many countries across the world to breed ostriches for release into the wild. 

Ostriches are found in captivity all over the world with a major concentration in America and Europe. These countries have areas in zoos or sanctuaries which play a major role in protecting the species.

Various funds and centers exist that protect ostriches and work in their interest such as: 

  • Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF)
  • The Saint Louis Zoo
  • The AZA Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group
  • Sahara Conservation Fund

What are the challenges faced by the ostrich population?

Possible Future Challenges

Scientists have discovered that ostriches have high resilience and antibody production capacity. 

Research is being done on how we can harvest it to make medicines for humans. Such research, if successful, might put the future of Ostriches in danger.

Extensive use in Clothing  Industry 

In the 18th century, ostrich feathers were very popular in the women’s clothing industry which led to a mass disappearance of this species in that period. 

If not for the concept of ostrich farming, ostriches would have gone extinct. 

Breeding and hunting ostriches for their feathers is still a booming industry which may lead to further decline in the ostrich population.

Human Encroachment

The constant and huge rate of increase in the human population is a major threat to the ostrich population.

As more and more humans come into existence, they encroach upon areas that were once wild to build their homes and roads. This leads to a loss of habitat for these flightless birds. 

Mass Hunting

Ostriches are hunted for their feathers, meat, and eggs. As we all know, mass hunting is a major threat to every animal in the world and the same goes for the ostrich.

The ostrich population has survived 2 mass hunting periods (for feathers) in their existence. The first one in the 1500s in Europe and the second in the 1800s in America. 

Related Read: Are Ostriches Dangerous To Humans | Can They Kill You?

Hunting for Food

Ostrich meat is considered iron-rich. It is also considered very savory along with the added benefits of reduced-fat and cholesterol intake when compared to other sources of meat. It also holds the title of “Healthiest Red Meat”.

The numbers are slowly declining even with the promotion and development of ostrich farms. The current ostrich population exists at under 1,50,000.

Which animal kills ostriches?

Ostriches hold one of the top positions in the food chain. Their weight and speed make them unsuitable targets for the big cats that frequent the Savanna. 

Ostriches can easily outrun any predator except the Cheetah. Though the Cheetah can overcome the speed barrier, it does not have the required body weight to bring down an ostrich. 

Despite this, a pride of hungry lions or hyenas can take down an ostrich if required. Though these birds run incredibly fast, they may be killed by lions. leopards, cheetahs, and African hunting dogs.

What is the habitat of the Ostrich?

Ostriches are native to Africa and are found in semi-arid regions like the Savanna and the desert. They share the grasslands with zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, and other native animals.

It has been found that ostriches used to live across Asia and the Arabain Peninsula as well but their present habitat has been reduced to only sub-Saharan Africa.

Ostriches require between 1 to 3 acres of land to run and remain healthy. Hence, they usually prefer open areas like the Savanna.

How can we preserve Ostriches?

The only viable way to preserve the Ostrich population is the method known as ‘reinforcement’. This means adding to the existing population to increase its chances of survival. 

To reduce the decline of the ostrich population and increase their numbers, extensive utilization of Ostrich Breeding Farms will play a vital role. 

These farms should have 2 objectives:

  •  Breeding enough Ostriches to meet the demands of the consumers so that people do not go hunting for them in the wild.
  •   Breeding in excess and releasing a set number of Ostriches in the wild 

every year.

Related Read: Do Ostriches Live In Zoos?

Conclusion

Though Ostriches may seem abundant due to the reports of International Organisations, a closer look will tell you that they are far too less in number to be termed under ‘Least concern’.

We need to realize the fault in the numbers as soon as possible and work towards increasing their population. This is vital to the existence of this magnificent species of flightless birds.

Classifying them under ‘Endangered Species’ will ensure that this beautiful species gets the attention of the masses and the above-mentioned methods are followed worldwide as soon as possible for their protection and preservation.

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