It is quite puzzling how humans have not become extinct by now. We are the only ‘animals’ who gravitate towards danger, so willingly. How is it that we are the smartest beings on planet earth, yet even dumb antelopes know when to run? No wonder we need insurance.
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I clumber onto Bobby’s back. Bobby is an eight-year-old Somali male ostrich who likes taking off with strangers on her saddled chicken like back and her long two clawed legs. This is after reading a warning sign that clearly indemnifies Maasai Ostrich Farm in Kitengela from potential litigants just in case a rider gets into an accident while riding a bird. But we are the generation who sign away our lives at every possible opportunity; sky diving, zip lining, online dare games, you name it.
I manage to remain seated, but scream for the two attendants not to desert me during my ride with Bobby. Bobby is unhappy and tries to run away with this damsel who is clearly in self-inflicted distress, but I manage to dismount. The last time I got onto a camel, I barely managed to get off before my legs gave way. I literally had to be carried away as my legs were trembling so much that I could not walk. But this time, I manage to wobble away after patting my big beaked Bobby from Kitengela goodbye and head off for the farm tour.
It is an afternoon full of fun facts. Male ostriches tend to be very territorial and aggressive as they are the de facto family heads. They are so territorial that their feeders have to employ tricks and subterfuge when feeding them or carting away their eggs. When an ostrich runs, it fluffs out its feathers and can attain speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour. If you ever find yourself staring up at an angry ostrich, they are more than two metres in height; you have a better chance at survival if you lie down on the ground and acquire a few broken bones rather than be kicked by a 160-kilogramme bird in full flight.
The Maasai Ostrich Farm, off Mombasa Road and 45 minutes from Nairobi CBD, rears two types of ostriches; the Maasai Ostrich and Somali Ostrich. The Somali Ostrich has a bluish grey hue on its neck and thighs, while the Maasai Ostrich has a pinkish hue in the same areas. This is normally what is used to tell the two species apart. In both species though, the females tend to have feathers that are a drab grey, while the males have feathers that are a glossy black. The males are more appealing to look at, as they are designed to attract females during mating season.
Yes, ostriches are lovely, terrifying creatures with a wealth of lessons that we can acquire. They are clearly wise and not as reckless as humans, as they can live for up to 75 years! If you end the farm tour, you might want to buy some ostrich steak or eggs at the farm’s kiosk. The thought of eating sumptuous steak with a healthy helping of rice should restore you back to the precarious position of master in the food chain.