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The ostrich in Egypt: past and present

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This article tracks the evolution of the distribution of ostrich populations, Struthio camelus L., 1758, in Egypt from the Late Pleistocene up to present times with a view to establishing a series of distribution maps for the historical period. An attempt is then made to describe and interpret these maps.Location

The country considered is Egypt.Methods

We compiled all the information about the presence of the ostrich in Egypt collected from the study of fossil remains, archaeological materials and from the narrative of travellers since the fourteenth century. From the accounts of these travellers, three maps showing the location of this birds in this country are established: from the end of the fourteenth century to the end of the seventeenth century; from the beginning of the eighteenth to the end of the nineteenth century; and lastly, for the twentieth century.Results

The ostrich was abundant and broadly distributed in Egypt in the past. However, it has been constantly in decline. It disappeared from the north of the country and lived only in the southeast up to the end of the nineteenth century. The birds reappeared in the latter region at the beginning of the 1960s up to 1991 before disappearing from the country.Main conclusions

The principal reasons for the decline of the ostrich in Egypt are the aridification caused by climatic changes and intensive hunting by humans. It is possible that this bird was not sighted in the country between the beginning of the twentieth century and the 1960s, not because it had disappeared, but most probably because it was sufficiently discrete to be noticed.
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Keywords: Autruche; Biogeography; Egypt; Egypte; Struthio camelus; biogéographie; fauna; faune; historical ecology; ostrich; écologie historique

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: 2001-08-01

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