Save a Rare Kosher Bird
Guest post by R. Chaim Loike
Rabbi Chaim Loike teaches practical shechitah at RIETS and speaks frequently on kosher birds.
The Philby partridge (Alectoris philbyi) 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 successfully raised the bird. For unknown reasons, the San Diego Zoo stopped raising this bird about 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 rampant poaching does not bode well for the future of this species.
The Philby partridge is unique because it is one of the few historically kosher birds, which is not raised in captivity. The birds which we generally eat include the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose. The Talmud in the third chapter of Chullin explains that the majority of avian species are kosher. However, the Rama (SH”A YD 82:3) notes that our tradition is to refrain from eating any birds whose kosher status cannot be proven via a mesorah, a tradition of permissibility. 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. Photographic evidence exists that the Philby was consumed by the local Yemenite Jewish community. There is also scientific data that the Philby will hybridize with the kosher species of partridge. This suggests that the only reason why the Philby partridge may not become a recognized kosher bird is that the 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 that appreciate both the mitzvah (Rambam, MA 1:1) to differentiate between the kosher and non-kosher species and the importance of conservation.
How much will this 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: www.indiegogo.com/shecht.
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