Thursday, December 27, 2012

Save the Philby Partridge - Save the World!


The Philby partridge (alectoris philbi) is a partridge which is indigenous to Northern Yemen. It was at one time imported by the San Diego Zoo, and there were quite a few hobbyists who had success raising the bird. Unfortunately, this bird is not beautiful or cuddly. For unknown reasons, the San Diego Zoo stopped raising this bird around a decade ago, and most hobbyists have likewise moved to more interesting exotics. At the same time, the situation in Yemen has become rather hostile. Although the bird is not listed as endangered, the collapse of the Yemenite government combined with the rampant poaching does not bode well for the future of this species.

Yemenite Jews collecting Philby Partridges for a visiting doctor from Italy
From the book Mesoret Haof by Zohar Amar

The Philby partridge is unique because it is one of the few historically kosher birds, which are not readily available. Most of the birds which we eat are the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose. The Talmud in the third perek of Chullin explains that the majority of avian species are kosher, however, the Rama (SH”A YD 82:3) notes the tradition is not to eat any birds whose kosher status can not be proven via a mesorah, tradition of permissibly. All said, of the ten thousand recognized avian species, there are only three dozen species which are proven kosher. The Philby partridge could likely qualify for this short list. There is photographic evidence that the Philby was consumed by the local Yemenite Jewish community. There is scientific data that the Philby will hybridize with the kosher species of partridge.  All said and done, the only reason why the Philby partridge may not become a recognized kosher bird, is because this bird is just too rare.

After approaching a few zoos, it was discovered that there are so many species in danger of extinction that the institutions are forced to prioritize. This rare bird, from a remote part of the Arabian Peninsula, was not considered a priority. To this end, a few rabbis are trying to save this bird. We have already acquired a foundation stock, and are now looking to breed this bird. If our breeding efforts are successful, we hope to establish three breeding colonies. Additional birds will be distributed to schools, camps, and other institutions which appreciate both the mitzvah (Rambam MA 1:1) to differentiate between the kosher and non-kosher species and the importance of conservation.

How much is this all going to cost? We are looking to raise five thousand dollars. This will cover the equipment needed to raise and maintain the three colonies, as well as food, vitamins and medication. We will work, b’ezras Hashem, to save this species, your contribution will be a major factor in determining whether or not we succeed. Join the campaign


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    Contact me at so we can discuss interest in conservation.

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