• conservation incentives;
  • conservation on private land;
  • financial feasibility analysis;
  • net present values;
  • seed costs;
  • seedling survival


Nonsustainable ostrich farming practices have degraded large areas of the Little Karoo, a semiarid region in South Africa. The Little Karoo lies within the Succulent Karoo biome, a recognized biodiversity hotspot. A financial feasibility analysis was undertaken from a private landowner’s perspective to examine the costs and benefits of rehabilitating degraded areas thereby allowing farmers to shift their production focus from ostrich to sheep farming, a financially stable and relatively conservation-compatible land use. Our aim was to raise awareness, at a private landowner level, to the opportunity costs incurred through unsustainable land use practices. We calculated and contrasted net present values for rehabilitation and no rehabilitation scenarios and investigated model sensitivities relating to seed costs, seedling survival and ostrich product prices. Rehabilitation was not found to be financially feasible for private landholders over 20 years. Seedling survival and associated seed costs were found to have strong controlling effects. Third parties need to contribute both financially and in terms of research outputs if sustainable land use practices are to be achieved in this area. This study elucidates the true costs associated with the unsustainable practice of ostrich farming and sounds a cautionary warning.