Text & photos: Sanjog Manandhar
Merely a decade ago, Nepal’s only ostriches occupied a sad enclosure at the positively depressing Central Zoo in Jawalakhel. The giant birds, with their sheer size and unusual gait, naturally, attracted throngs of visitors. But did those onlookers guess that in a few short years, these birds, that they were gingerly taking pictures with, would become so easily accessible?
Fast forward to 2016 and the exotic and novel ostrich meat is taking Kathmandu by storm. Every hip restaurant flaunts it and ostrich mo:mos and steaks look like they are here to stay. And story of how these giant birds native to the African savannah ended up on Nepali plates is, understandably, a fascinating one.
Ostrich Nepal, the pioneers of ostrich farming in this Himalayan country, began operations in 2008 out of a 22 bigha farm in Rupandehi. Initiated with 1,500 eggs imported from Australia, Ostrich Nepal today has 6,000 ostriches spread out over three farms across the country, with the demand for ostrich meat—described as similar to lean beef in taste—booming in urban centres like Kathmandu and Pokhara. Given their success in breeding and marketing ostriches to the curious Nepali palette, Ostrich Nepal has now also expanded operations to rearing emus and kangaroos as well.
On a recent trip to Butwal, I had the opportunity to visit one of the fascinating farms (which also make a handsome supplementary income through tourist footfall) and document life in what is now veritably the Nepali outback. These are the snapshots of how some innovation and indefatigable persistence can reap wonderful rewards and some juicy steaks.