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Ostrich Conservation, Niger

SCF implements this groundbreaking project in partnership with:

  • AZA Ratite Taxon Advisory Group (USA)
  • CERNK – Cooperative for the Exploitation of the Natural Resources of Koutous (Niger)
  • GAGE-Azihar (Niger)
  • Ministry of the Environment (Niger)

Funding and technical support for the project is generously provided by the following institutions:

  • AZA Conservation Endowment Fund (USA)
  • Compagnie des Alpes / Planète Sauvage (France)
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom (USA)
  • Doué La Fontaine (France)
  • Exotic Wildlife Association (USA)
  • Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) (France)
  • Franklin Park Zoo (USA)
  • Friends of the National Zoo (USA)
  • Mulhouse Zoo (France)
  • Musée Nationale du Niger (Niger)
  • John Ball Zoo (USA)
  • St Louis Zoo (USA)
  • Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (USA)
  • Houston Zoo (Zoos & Aquariums Caring for Conservation - ZACC) (USA)
  • San Diego Zoo Global (USA)

Critically endangered desert race

The North African ostrich (Struthio c. camelus) is one of four extant sub-species of ostrich. It alone inhabits the harsh environment of the Sahara and bordering Sahel. A century ago this race of ostrich inhabited the entire periphery of the Sahara both north and south, a total of 18 countries; today its range has been reduced to just six. Even within the borders of these states it struggles to survive the challenges of growing habitat loss and unsustainable off-take. The North African ostrich is critically endangered and without urgent conservation action may soon follow its cousin the Arabian ostrich into extinction.

Grassroots approach

Inspired by local conservationists in the Aïr Mountains of northern Niger, who were protecting the last of Niger’s ostriches in captivity, the Sahara Conservation Fund launched an international appeal to save this unique population and return the ostrich to the wild. This project is a model-in-the-making of participatory, grassroots conservation and a catalyst for the conservation of other endangered species. It demonstrates and reinforces the fundamental relationship required between successful conservation action and the local people that drive, implement and sustain it. Long-term success depends on empowering and building the capacity of local communities to look after their natural resources and this project is as much about achieving this as it is about saving an endangered species; they are intrinsically linked.

Conservation in action

To date the Sahara Conservation Fund and its partners have made significant advances in ostrich conservation. This includes:

  • Survey of the ostrich in captivity in Niger
  • Construction of new enclosures
  • Advice on ostrich husbandry
  • Genetic and health analysis of the local ostrich population
  • Operation of an incubator
  • Ostrich food and supplements, and veterinary products
  • Salaries for local staff (site manager, keepers)

In November 2008 SCF began working with a local wildlife organization – CERNK – to provide technical support and an improved ration to the ostriches they hold. During the two previous years these ostriches failed to produce any viable offspring. However, after an adjustment and recuperation period three female ostriches produced 49 eggs in 6 weeks. SCF has also assisted other local owners, including Niger’s National Zoo with their ostrich breeding.

The project is working to establish a proper ostrich breeding center in the village of Kellé in the east of the country. It is here CERNK has a small breeding facility. In collaboration with the project, CERNK will make its facilities and staff available to SCF. SCF will expand the centre’s infrastructure and hire and train the local staff in ostrich husbandry. Through this unique partnership the project expects to produce enough ostriches for an initial release into the wild within the next few years. In cooperation with Niger’s Environment Ministry, release sites will be selected in existing game reserves.

In preparation for the release of ostriches, SCF is already working with its partners to implement education and awareness programs. Teams of local wildlife monitors will also be formed to follow the released ostrich and ensure conditions are optimal for their survival and return to the wild.


In partnership with the AZA Ratite Taxon Advisory Group, SCF has developed an Adopt-an-Ostrich Program to support the acquisition, care and feeding of pure-bred Saharan ostrich in Niger, to help maintain the ostrich facilities, and to improve capacity for ostrich management. $500 will cover the care of one ostrich in Niger for a year and our zoo goal is 100% participation from all US zoos holding ostrich.

So far, SCF is proud to announce the generous support of the following zoos:

  • Audubon Nature Institute
  • Busch Gardens
  • Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
  • Dallas Zoo AAZK
  • Detroit Zoological Society
  • Dickerson Park Zoo
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
  • Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo
  • Lion Country Safari AAZK
  • Marwell Wildlife
  • Milwaukee County Zoo
  • North Carolina Zoo
  • Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
  • Phoenix Zoo
  • Sacramento Zoo
  • Safari West
  • San Diego Zoo Global
  • San Francisco Zoo
  • Saint Louis Zoo
  • The Living Desert
  • Toledo Zoo
  • Tulsa Zoo
  • Utah’s Hogle Zoo
  • West Texas AAZK
  • Woodland Park Zoo
  • Zoo Atlanta
  • Zoo Miami
  • Zoo New England

We are particularly grateful to the school children of the Windermere Elementary School in Florida for their superb efforts in raising $2500 for the program. Also, to North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro for efforts underway to support our initiative through sales at their gift shop.

The Adopt-an-Ostrich scheme has also been rolled out in Niger, together with an attractive poster designed by Vincent Turmine. The Nigerien scheme was initiated following a generous donation from local TV star, Ms. Hadjara Gagara, who has also helped promote SCF activities locally through videos and documentaries. Our second Nigerien ‘godmother’ is Ms. Aisha Bollo, a local entrepreneur. We thank both of them for their generous support.

The adoption scheme is also open to private individuals and SCF is grateful to Jan and Kevin Chauncey, Mr Bill Houston, Dr Sara Hallager, Mr Randi Cremmins, Mr Mike Bossier and Dr Mike Maunder for their generous donations.

Adopt-an-Ostrich is open to everyone at whatever level can be afforded. As of November, 2012, we have raised over $22,000. Donations can be made on-line via our PayPal portal. Thanks in advance for your support in helping us save the biggest bird on earth!

Adult male ostrich (Kelle, Niger) Ostriches (Kellé, Niger) Male ostrich (Niger) Ostrich chicks (Niger) Ostrich chick (Niger) Female ostrich (Niger) Ostriches (Aïr, Niger) Ostriches (Aïr, Niger) Ostriches (Aïr, Niger) Ostriches (Iferouane, Niger) Children and ostrich egg (Niger) Male ostrich (Kellé, Niger) Ostrich at nest (Aïr, Niger) Ostrich preening (Niger)

Ostrich Conservation (Niger)

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Sahara Conservation Fund