Oudtshoorn farms scrap ostrich rides in line with ethical tourism best practice

2017-05-19 13:52 - Eugene Gunning, Netwerk24
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Cape Town - Two big ostrich farms near Oudtshoorn have put a stop to people riding the big birds, Netwerk24 reports. 

Riding ostriches or sitting on them for a picture to be taken, is very popular among tourists. However, questions have been raised about the possibility that the birds are being hurt in the process. 

Billy Engelbrecht, the marketing manager of the Safari ostrich farm, confirmed that ostrich rides will no longer be allowed on the farm. 

The farm has been in existence since 1956 and has European Union approval to export ostrich meat.

“Until recently, we allowed some tourists to sit on an ostrich for a picture to be taken. However, strict rules and regulations applied.”

Visitors who wanted to ride an ostrich had to weigh less than 60kg. “Our company has now decided to stop ostrich riding and people sitting on them altogether.” 

Visitors now get onto a trailer with seats, drawn by a tractor. The tractor drives very close to the ostriches. This means that visitors get a close-up of the birds in their camps.

Engelbrecht said international  travel agents had brought the sensitivity of ostrich riding and sitting on the birds to their attention. There has been a tendency internationally to put an end to, for example, elephant rides.

Engelbrecht said they had received a lot of positive feedback.

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Renate Samoilhan, the marketing manager of the Cango ostrich farm, said they had also put an end to riding ostriches and having people sit on them. There, as well, the feedback had been positive. 

“In the international tourism market there is great awareness of how animals must be treated. The general feeling it should not be detrimental to the well-being of the animal.” According to her it wasn’t an easy decision, because for many people it was the highlight of a visit.

“However, we realised that together with stricter industry regulations, the global tendency to keep and exhibit animals and birds in their natural environment as much as possible,  it is an ethical, positive and necessary step for the tourism industry.” 

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Johan Keller, the manager and co-owner of the Highgate ostrich farm, said people banning ostrich rides are over sensitive. He warned that the industry should not be harmed in the process.

Ostrich riding is still being allowed on Highgate, he said. Highgate has been in existence since 1938.  “We have been farming here for four generations. We are very sensitive about how we farm and handle the ostriches. 

“We have never hurt and ostrich and won’t allow it to happen. There is interaction between man and animal.” He emphasised that the industry is their bread and butter. “Why would we then be reckless and risk our reputation?” 

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