Ostriches In North-Eastern Ennedi, Chad!

Many thanks to Yves Gauthier for sharing this news with us. A French Researcher and Rock art expert, he tells how he observed, together with his team and thanks to the guide Idris Barkai, unexpected ostrich tracks in Northern Chad. (A French version can be found at the end of this article with his email address in case you want to discuss with him about these observations). 

We have been travelling in Northern Chad since 2012 to list rock art sites as well as monuments and ancient human settlements. This led us to visit areas with little or no passage at all, except by nomads or traffickers, and to observe the flora and fauna. Until now, we had never heard of ostriches in Chad except those in Zakuma National Park, much further south.

Dragesco-Jaffé mentions ostriches in Ennedi but they disappeared a long time ago, the species being eradicated by intensive hunting in northwestern Lake Chad (1993: 149) and elsewhere. This author then places the Northern limit of the species distribution range at 20 ° for Niger and the extreme east of Chad and 23 ° for North-Eastern Sudan (ibidem: 146).

To our knowledge, there has been no mention of the presence of this animal, in Ennedi, for at least a decade.

It was therefore quite unexpected, on February 7, 2018, to discover fresh tracks of ostriches in the NE of this massif, north of the 23rd parallel and so close from the Sudanese border. Based on the strong winds, these tracks had been left the same day in the morning. The photos show the tracks of a large and a small ostrich (Fig 1-2).

Fig. 1 and 2: two ostrich tracks © Yves Gauthier

Our local guide, Idris Barkai, has been seeing ostriches (adults and young) in this area since his early ages (for about 30 years). According to Idris, these animals commonly visit this area in the morning looking for food and then head further East. We did not try to spot them to find out more, but, of course, it would be interesting to know about the size and composition of this ostrich herd.

This is therefore a small relict population, certainly the last representative of the species still living in Northern Chad. Unfortunately, like their conspecifics in Niger and Kanem, these ostriches are about to extinct. The local people have indeed confirmed that the animal is still hunted for its meat.

At a time when the rate of extinction is accelerating, for Saharan species as for many others, and in a context of ongoing attempts to reintroduce ostriches or addax in Niger and Chad, it seems crucial to me to have studies being carried out, measures taken rapidly, and to preserve the genetic heritage of this small population.

 Fig. 3 and 4: In red: large ostrich / In pink: small ostrich / In blue: hare droppings / In black: stripped hyena / In green: fox © Yves Gauthier

Y. Gauthier.