Rare ostriches to start breeding programme at Devon zoo

Red-necked ostrich (Paignton Zoo)
Image caption The bird has red legs and neck during the breeding season

Two rare ostriches have arrived at a Devon zoo as part of a captive breeding programme.

The male red-necked ostriches are six-months-old and came to Paignton Zoo from Hannover Zoo in Germany.

In the wild, the species has become extinct in 12 of 18 African countries where it was once found.

A zoo spokesperson said they are at the centre of a breeding programme to boost numbers. The species was classified as critically endangered, they added.

Senior head bird keeper Pete Smallbones said: "The eggs came from Souss Masa National Park in Morocco.

"They were taken to Hannover and hatched there.

"We hope to bring females to Paignton Zoo in the future and play an active part in conserving the species," he added.

Image caption When fully grown the birds can be 9.8ft (2.9m) tall

Historically the species was widespread from Ethiopia and Sudan to Senegal and Mauritania in West Africa.

A zoo spokesperson said the wild population is declining because of human interference.

The species is hunted for its meat, feathers, skin and eggs, they added.

The name comes from the red colour which develops on the birds neck and legs during the breeding season, the zoo said.

The birds can grow up to 9.8ft (2.9m) tall.

The birds will join an elderly female common ostrich at the zoo.

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