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1890-Andrew-intro_ostriches_to_tas.pdf (38.97 MB)

Remarks on a recent proposal to introduce ostriches into Tasmania

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-22, 10:36 authored by James Andrew
During last year a proposal was made to the Government to introduce Ostriches into Tasmania, following the example of what was done with some little success in the Continental Colonies of Australia and in New Zealand at a time when very large profits were made out of this industry in the Cape Colony and other South African States. The offer, however, was made subject to the financial safeguard of a Government guarantee, and failed to secure favourable consideration.
From observations of the habits of wild ostriches, and from some little experience of their management when domesticated, having owned birds myself, I venture to offer a few remarks on farming for feathers, and the possibility of such an industry being successfully carried out in Tasmania.
An observer of ostriches in their native state would imagine the task of bringing such birds under the subjection of man to be almost an impossibility. No wild creature of the plains is so difficult to approach, "none are so timid or so fleet". The stratagems of natives or the well organised arrangements of professional hunters are required to ensure a successful chase. And yet their domestication has been comparatively easy, and now that their habits are well understood it is found that in confinement they can be bred and reared, and maintained as adult birds, with no appreciable loss of their natural characteristics.
Their chosen home is a waterless desert, with sparse and stunted vegetation, affording no shelter from the burning sun; their food small reptiles and animals, the young leaves and twigs of bushes, and the wiry grass and other small plants whose existence under such surroundings is always a mystery to travellers. The speed of the ostrich is a marvel of pace.
Each stride, as has been verified by careful measurements, is from 22ft. to 28ft. One observer reports 30 strides of 12ft.
each in ten seconds, or 26 miles per hour, which agrees with the estimate formed by Dr. Livingstone.
The male bird is an imposing creature, in height to the top of the head often 9ft. and even sometimes 10ft., thus exceeding any other existing species of aves.
A peculiarity of an ostrich feather is that the quill is exactly in the centre of the webs instead of, as in the plumage of all other birds, more on one side than the other. This is accepted as the origin of their use as an emblem of justice in Egyptian hieroglyphics.
It appears that the geographical distribution of the ostrich was formerly much greater than at the present time, although even now its range is more extended than is generally supposed, including some parts of Asia, Arabia, and Northern and Southern Africa.

History

Publication title

Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania

Pagination

176-184

ISSN

0080-4703

Rights statement

In 1843 the Horticultural and Botanical Society of Van Diemen's Land was founded and became the Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land for Horticulture, Botany, and the Advancement of Science in 1844. In 1855 its name changed to Royal Society of Tasmania for Horticulture, Botany, and the Advancement of Science. In 1911 the name was shortened to Royal Society of Tasmania..

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