Ethnozoological Knowledge and Local Perceptions about the Reintroduction of the North African Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus Linnaeus, 1858) in the Koutous, Niger

Main Article Content

Maïmounatou Ibrahim Mamadou
Abdoulaye Harouna
Maman Kamal Abdou Habou
Marie Petretto
Ali Mahamane

Abstract

The North African Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus), also known as the red-necked ostrich, disappeared from Niger 15 years ago but preliminary work completed in 2011 has shown that the species has not vanished from the collective memory in the Koutous. Using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, this study combines the results of questionnaire surveys and local market monitoring conducted between October 2017 and January 2020, in order to document the ethnozoological knowledge of the communities living in the surroundings of the ostrich breeding centre of Kellé (Zinder). It fits within the wider framework of the species reintroduction program. A total of 120 people were interviewed individually to evaluate their knowledge about the species and their opinion about its possible return in the Koutous. The results emphasized that the ostriches were mainly sources of food (meat or eggs) and traditional medicines (topical pain killers), and to a lesser extent, of ornament objects. Additionally, wildlife products trade still occurs in three of the four weekly markets monitored and one stallholder still had an ostrich bone to sell. Entailing either animal hunting or disturbance, these uses could represent limiting factors to the re-establishment of wild populations. No mention was made of cultural, natural or religious heritage or source of incomes, suggesting the value was limited to subsistence. However, with eight usable products listed, the value of a single animal is relatively high since it can fulfil various demands.

Most of the interviewees had limited knowledge about the species’ ecology but they anticipated a lack of suitable habitat. No other cause than lack of water (low rainfall, climate change, desertification...), habitat encroachment by human activities (urbanisation and agriculture) and hunting was thought to have caused the extinction. Habitat restoration was indeed the most-cited prerequisite for successful restoration of wild populations; however the need to ensure the animals’ security (fences, patrols, regulations, anti-poaching campaigns...) was also put forward. The confidence rate in the reintroduction initiatives was mitigated: none of the people interviewed was confident it would be a success in the current context but 56.66% of them were optimistic if preliminary requirements are met. The interpretation of the answers to the open-ended questions suggests underlying risks of illegal hunting and human-wildlife conflict but the request for public awareness campaigns and regulations gives hope for the return of free-ranging North-African ostriches in the future.

This study provides key baseline data about the local communities’ perception of ostrich conservation and key elements in a Participatory Rural Appraisals (PRA) approach (also known as “Méthode Active de Recherche et Planification Participative” - MARP) in any conservation project. In particular, this work will contribute to the development of feasibility plan for future North African ostrich reintroduction in the Koutous.

Keywords:
Struthio camelus camelus, uses, perception, reintroduction, Koutous, Niger, Participatory Action Research (PRA).

Article Details

How to Cite
Mamadou, M. I., Harouna, A., Habou, M. K. A., Petretto, M., & Mahamane, A. (2020). Ethnozoological Knowledge and Local Perceptions about the Reintroduction of the North African Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus Linnaeus, 1858) in the Koutous, Niger. Journal of Applied Life Sciences International, 23(6), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.9734/jalsi/2020/v23i630165
Section
Original Research Article

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