The Ostriches of the Middle-East

Most of you are probably unaware of the fact that 100 years ago, Ostriches roamed in Israel and the entire Arabian Peninsula. Those were not the Ostriches known from today’s East Africa, but a different subspecies, which is nowadays completely extinct.

The Middle-eastern Ostrich (also known as Arabic or Syrian) Sturthio camelus syriacus was almost identical to the nominate “Red-necked” subspecies Struthio camelus camelus, with one distinctive difference: its size. The Middle-eastern Ostrich was significantly smaller, probably as an adjustment to the desert habitat in which it bred. A genetic study found that indeed, of the 4 known Ostrich subspecies, the syriacus was most closely related to the camelus, other than to the Somalian or South African subspecies.

Ostrich (3)

The disappearance of “our” subspecies was a result of the spread of firearms, mainly post the first world war. Previous to this spread and the use of cars, hunting this magnificent birds was much harder and usually resulted in only one kill. This was dramatically changed to whole families shot at one hunting attempt. The last accepted record of the subspecies is from 1941, in Kuwait, where a female was hunted and eaten. A rumor about another female that was washed dead in one of the floods in wadi hasa, Jordan, in the early 60’s was never verified.

In the bird collection there are three specimens – an adult female and two chicks hunted in Saudi Arabia on March 1933, by a Saudi Sheikh. The specimens were sent 500 km from their hunting location to Aharoni, which gives a good example of the name he had among the people of the middle east.יען בוגרת

For further reading:

Robinson, Terence J. & Matthee, Conrad A. (1999): Molecular genetic relationships of the extinct ostrich, Struthio camelus syriacus: consequences for ostrich introductions into Saudi Arabia. Animal Conservation 2(3): 165-171.

Shirihai, H. 1996. The birds of Israel. Academic Press, London.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *