Love The North African Ostrich
West and North Africa
This 8-year-old male has a stunning neck. Bright and flashy in a pinkish-red hue, it contrasts with his rich black feathers making him a heart-throb on the savannah. But his beautiful soft feathers have made him a target, as have the huge eggs that his females lay. Once the most widespread of his kind, he is now critically endangered. He hopes that people can see past the common ostrich and their thriving populations and give him and his gorgeous subspecies a helping hand.
Also known as the red-necked ostrich and Barbary ostrich, this subspecies of the common ostrich is the largest living bird in the world. Standing on average at 2.74 m and weighing up to 154 kg, this bird is not to be trifled with, even though it can’t fly. The male has a pink-red neck with black and white feathers. The female North African ostrich is grey. Once the most widespread ostrich found across much of western and northeastern Africa in open fields and savannahs, it can now be found in only 6 of the original 18 countries it once roamed. This hardy bird is the only subspecies capable of living in the Sahara, living right around the periphery.
Ostriches are very fast, receiving the award for the fastest land speed for birds. They can run large distances at 55km/h and can push short bursts at 70km/h. With such powerful legs, these can also be used as effective weapons, particularly deadly with the sharp talons at the end. When threatened, the ostrich can choose to stand and fight or flatten itself on the ground. The idea that ostriches bury their head in the sand is a very ancient myth.
When it is time to mate, the birds begin to form small groups. A territorial male will defend their harem of between 2-7 hens and pair bond with the head female. The ritual of mating is quite the show with the male flapping his wings almost like a dance while the female runs around him. The dominant female of the group will lay her eggs in a nest in the ground and the other females will do so after her, keeping their eggs together before covering them up for incubation. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs except the smallest relative to body size. The females incubate the eggs during the day and the males take their turn at night. When the chicks hatch, they are cared for by both their parents. They are full-grown at 6 months and are sexually mature at 2-4 years.
These ostriches have been in decline for the past 50 years. They have been hunted for their feathers, food, and eggs and have suffered from habitat loss. There is now an effort to reintroduce North African ostriches, particularly in northern Sahara where they have been extinct for the past 50 years. There have also been introduction programmes in Asia where their extinct cousin, the Arabian ostrich once roamed. Being very similar, the North African ostrich was considered a good replacement and has been introduced in Saudi Arabia and Israel but the project in Israel was unsuccessful.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/SOURCES