By: Rogia al-Shafee
KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Ostriches have a big role in the Sudanese cultural heritage. Their feather was and is still used as an ornament in some parts of the Sudan, in particular on happy occasions and festivities.
Sudan’s elders may remember to have seen the army officers and soldiers of the past each having a thick crown of ostrich feathers protruding from the left side of his hat. Ostrich feathers were also used to decorate the hats of tribal monarchs and chieftains. In some parts of Sudan women used to decorate mattresses and table cloth with colorful ostrich feathers. Wherever ostriches were present in the wildlife, the locals would be happy to catch, cook and present its meat for important guests.
Veterinarian Tariq Mustafa Okair has described the ostrich as “the treasure bird” because of its economic value and the high nutritional benefit of its meat.
Commenting on the popular notion that ostriches are coward because they bury their heads in the sand, Dr. Tariq explained that the bird buries its head in the sand for logical reasons: (1) to have a sand bath (2) To try to monitor the movement of insects it feeds on (3) to try to sense the movement of its enemies and the hunters who may kill it.
Dr. Tariq, who is a professor of veterinary sciences at the Sudan University of Science and Technology, also manages the society of young investors and inventors at the University.
He considers Sudan a natural habitat of ostriches. Sudan’s hot weather and sandy terrain constitute a helpful environment for the commercial breeding of ostriches.
According to him a pair of ostriches can fetch more than a thousand US dollars.
Ostriches thrive all over the Sudan, but the Dindir and Radoam Game Reserves, all the states of Darfur, Gedarif and Sinnar districts are well known ostrich habitats.
The ostrich grows up about three meters high and an adult ostrich can weigh up to 120 kilograms.
The Sudan ostriches are largely from the red necked ostrich species. Other largely known ostriches are the blue and black neck ostriches. The latter two are commercial breeds. In this group the black neck ostrich is bred in commercial farms due to its high productivity of eggs and because it is less fierce. This species is also a hybrid from the blue and red neck species.
Sudanese ostrich is wild and difficult to catch when it is fully grown up. It is also difficult to breed at home, save for amateurs who know how to carefully handle it.
It can be bred in special enclosures and farms because it needs wider spaces for it to run in order to build its thighs that store much of the meat. Dr. Tariq said ostrich meat is highly rich in protein. That is why it was used in the past to nourish pregnant women.
It is also cholesterol free. This renders it suitable for diabetics and persons with heart problems and high blood pressure.
Compared with other animal hides, ostrich hide is the best selling because it is softer and more resilient. It is used to manufacture handbags and shoes.
Ostrich eggs are cooked and eaten. They are also used in pastries.
Ostrich fat, that contains a big amount of unsaturated fats, is used in the manufacturing of medical fats.
Emptied ostrich eggs are used by artists to produce gifts of different shapes and colours.
As investment authorities in Sudan came to know that ostriches are more profitable than raising other traditional animals, preparations for establishing a national ostrich breeding farm has been completed. The Sudan University for Science and Technology also has a pilot farm in East Nile, Khartoum.
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