Max Rose, who arrived in South Africa in 1890 from Shavel, in Lithuania, started out in Oudtshoorn as a feather buyer. In time, he became such a successful ostrich breeder that he was known throughout the Klein Karoo as the “ostrich king.” He told reporters that the ostrich feather boom, of the early 1900s, netted over £2-m a year from international markets. “Demand led to ostriches being ruthlessly hunted and killed for their plumes,” he said, “Things got so bad that ostriches were in danger of extinction.” An Oudtshoorn farmer is credited with saving the birds. According to The S A Jewish Times of February 20, 1948, Joel Myers, who had started as a trader in Aberdeen in the Great Karoo built a great walled enclosure on his farm to keep wild ostriches on his land. Then he regularly rounded them up and plucked them. Others soon followed his example. The slaughter stopped and the birds were saved. Before the 1914 slump in demand for feathers, there were 870 000 mature birds in the Oudtshoorn area alone.”
© Rose’s Roundup, vol. 2, no. 59, August 2008.
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