The South African ostrich industry is one of the largest exporters of red meat in the country and generates an annual income of R1.2 billion. The Klein Karoo is the core ostrich production region in South Africa and forms a critical part of the local economy, employing over 30 prcent of the local population. But for all of its economic benefits, the ostrich industry is one of the greatest causes of biodiversity transformation in the greater Klein Karoo region.
This region lies in the heart of the Gouritz Biodiversity Corridor, an area that hosts five of South Africa’s nine biomes and crosses two of our globally significant biodiversity hotspots (the Cape Floristic Region and the Succulent Karoo). Fynbos and Succulent Karoo are the dominant vegetation types, with many species endemic to the region.
In response to the impact that ostrich farming is having on the broader area, a partnership between the Gouritz Initiative, the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem Programme (SKEP) and the South African Ostrich Business Chamber (SAOBC) was formed: The Biodiversity and Ostrich Industry Project.
The Biodiversity Ostrich Initiative Project
The project, which uses farm-level best practice guidelines, works with farmers to implement management plans focused on biodiversity criteria and use of either intensive flock-breeding or intensive pen-breeding practices, instead of extensive flock-breeding which damages the Succulent Karoo.
To date 30 of the 90 farms in the area are piloting this approach. Critical biodiversity on these 30 selected farms has been identified and spatial recommendations have been made to the participating farmers. Three small rehabilitation projects are taking place and farmers are being assisted in establishing eco-tourism projects.
A big win for the project has been the embedding of a Biodiversity Section into the constitution of The Ostrich Business Chamber.