Greater Rhea

Ark of taste
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The greater rhea (Reha americana) is known as suri in the Quechua language spoken in the Andes. It is one of the largest birds in the world and the largest in Argentina, with males reaching 35 kg and a height between 93 and 140 cm, much taller than females. These are unique birds of South America that are part of a group of flightless birds known as ratites. They inhabit grasslands, savannahs, mountains and forests.   Females lay an average of six oval eggs each, which are about 9 cm wide and 16 cm long, weighting 440 – 650 grams each. Males incubate nests of about 30 eggs from multiple females. There is about a 50% hatch rate. Suri were hunted in Argentina without restriction until 1975, at which point a ban was put into place. In 2000, the ban on suri and by-products was lifted for animals coming from breeding programs. Therefore, products from farmed suri can be commercialized if the animals come from a second generation bred in captivity. There are management plans to ensure the continuity of the wild species.   While suri eggs and meat are not marketed on a large scale in Argentina, there are authorized hatcheries today that market these products on a small “gourmet” scale. Wild suri eggs, however, have long been a food source for the native and creole peoples of Argentina. They are considered a part of food sovereignty and culture in these communities. The eggs are not purchased, but collected from the mountains of the Chaco Salteño with an understanding of how many eggs to take to maintain the species’ population.   The most common technique used by the Wichí community to cook the eggs is by frying in fat and salt. Boiling does not fully cook the eggs due to their large size. The eggs can also be cooked with additional ingredients, such as onions, spinach and meat to make a sort of omelet. When there are ten or more eggs to be cooked, they are baked in an underground oven, cooking from late afternoon until dawn of the next day. Another elaborate preparation involves mixing the suri eggs with salt and fat, and putting this mixture into the bladder of an animal and cooking it on embers. There are also myths around the consumption of suri eggs by pregnant or breastfeeding women in the Wichí community.   According to the FAO, the main threats to the species are habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, poaching (especially in the Pampa Argentina), use of land for mining or oil drilling and clearing, as well as overgrazing in the Gran Chaco. This isolates suri populations, who do not have the ability to fly to migrate, leading to interbreeding and loss of genetic variability. It is listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN.

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Territory

StateArgentina
Region

Chaco

Other info

Categories

Breeds and animal husbandry

Indigenous community:Wichí