Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

South African town gets rich from ostrich feathers

South African town gets rich from ostrich feathers 1
South African town gets rich from ostrich feathers 1

On a farm in South Africa, hundreds of ostriches stretch their long necks, swaying their feathers in the sunset.

Ostriches in a breeding field on a farm in the town of Oudtshoorn.

`May the feathers always be with you` is the text that welcomes visitors to what is known as the ostrich capital of the world.

Most of it is produced in Oudtshoorn, a town in the Karoo region, a valley nestled between two mountain ranges along the southern coast of South Africa, where the semi-desert climate is suitable for ostrich farming.

From the town’s early days, fashion has been the main market for local farmers.

`If you want to see our products, go to the Met Gala in New York,` said Peter Liebenberg, head of feathers at Cape Karoo International, referring to the Museum’s annual fundraising gala event.

All products from ostriches are utilized.

South African town gets rich from ostrich feathers

Cape Karoo International workers stack ostrich feathers on a production line in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.

Saag Jonker, an 82-year-old farmer, said brooches made from tendons in ostrich feathers are in fashion.

`At that time people were restricted from going out, only staying at home and everyone wanted to clean up,` Liebenberg said.

In the early 1900s, ostrich feathers were a highly prized fashion material and South Africa’s fourth largest export product, with a price equivalent to that of gold.

But the ostrich feather market collapsed just as World War I disrupted maritime trade and cars became popular vehicles.

`You can’t get in the car with an ostrich feather on your head,` Liebenberg said.

Today, about 200 workers sort, cut, wash and dye fur into hundreds of colors at his processing facility in Oudtshoorn.

Cape Karoo International sells about 100 tons of feathers each year, including more than a million dusters and 130,000 m of decorative fabric.

Not far away is Jonker’s ostrich farm.

`I became an ostrich feather auctioneer when I was 22 or 23 years old. That’s how I got into the ostrich feather industry. I’ve never regretted it,` Jonker said.

South African town gets rich from ostrich feathers

Mr. Jonker checked ostrich eggs in the hatchery on February 13.

His company is the world’s largest privately owned ostrich breeder, processor and marketer, with nearly 45,000 ostriches slaughtered each season.

Customers range from costumed performers at the Moulin Rouge theater in Paris, to costumers at carnivals in Rio de Janeiro.

`Ostrich feathers are a great product,` he said.

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