Traumatised ostrich dies after six-hour ordeal on Gauteng highway

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An ostrich died from stress after spending over six hours on the run on a highway in Joburg.
An ostrich died from stress after spending over six hours on the run on a highway in Joburg.
PHOTO: Twitter/@GillianYoungBe1
  • The ostrich that was on the loose on the N14 highway in Gauteng on Thursday has died.
  • The Owl Rescue Centre team spent several hours trying to capture and rescue the flightless bird but could not save it.
  • Authorities said the stress of being on the highway for hours was just too much for the big bird.

The ostrich that caused traffic chaos on the N14 highway near the Diepsloot area in Gauteng on Thursday morning has died from the stress linked to its highway escapades.

The Owl Rescue Centre confirmed on Friday that its attempts to capture the female ostrich and take it to a place of safety had ended in tragedy.

"The stress of being on that highway for six hours, combined with the stress of the rescue, was just too much for her. Unfortunately, we lost her. This is not one of our proudest moments," Brendan Murray from the rescue centre said.

WATCH | Ostrich spotted running on Gauteng highway

Murray said the team was called out after 09:00, when motorists spotted an ostrich on the N14 highway between Krugersdorp and Pretoria.

"The first people saw the animal around 06:00, but luckily, we got a call around 09:00 and went out there to ask if people had seen the animal. Fortunately, we found a lady who was buying mielies on the side of the road, and she said she had seen it about 10 minutes [earlier]," he said.

Murray said tracking down the ostrich was no easy task, as the operation took several hours.

He said they followed up on the information obtained from the woman, and the rescue team eventually spotted the ostrich on the highway.

"We tried to get her off the road, but she kept running away," he added.

He said: 

I saw her nearly cause a dozen accidents, and the fact that no one hit her was a miracle.

Murray said as the team was driving towards the Malibongwe area, they noticed metro police officers who were manning a roadblock on the highway.

"We requested that they help close the highway so we could get the ostrich off the road and herd her to one of the plots around."

Murray said the metro police were, however, not helpful, "claiming it was not their concern".

After failing to obtain assistance from the metro police, Murray said the team tried in vain to get the ostrich off the highway on their own.

He said: 

It was difficult given that the ostrich was running at a speed of about 30km to 40km per hour.

Hours later, the team managed to get the flightless bird off the highway, managing to restrain it along the roadside.

"We immediately called our vet Dr Rob Campbell, who was on standby to come and sedate her, as ostriches suffer notoriously from capture myopathy. But while we were on the phone, she just collapsed. We performed CPR on her to get her heart going but unfortunately, we lost her," Murray said.

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He added that while it was not the best outcome, it was a valuable learning curve for the team on how to deal with such situations in the future.

Murray said, ideally, they needed more volunteers. He said the highway should have been closed while the animal was moved to a safe area where she could have been confined, instead of trying to catch it and then tranquilising her so that she didn't go into shock.

He warned:

The goal is to avoid any bad accidents because an ostrich weighs about 70kg and stands at 1.2 or 1.3 metres height. If it runs through someone's windshield driving at 120km per hour it could cause a very bad accident.

Murray said the ostrich's excursion did not lead to any accidents but ended in the bird losing its life.

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