African ostrich feathers may have long-inspired international fashion styles, but in a role reversal it is now feathers from the humble British pheasant that are catching the eye in Africa.
The mottled brown plumage is in such demand among warriors in northern Kenya who seek exotic trimmings for their headdresses, that a Yorkshire wildlife artist is posting a fistful to the region for Christmas.
Throughout the year, wildlife artist Robert E Fuller, based in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, has been collecting the common game bird’s tail feathers to give to Samburu tribesmen.
“It’s probably the most unusual gift I’ve ever sent,” said Mr Fuller, who befriended the warriors while on safari in Kenya in 2012.
“I visited Elephant Watch Camp, an eco-camp run by the celebrated elephant conservationist Iain Douglas-Hamilton and his family, in order to study elephants for a painting I was working on.
“I had taken along a picture I had painted of an elephant to present to the local guides to thank them for the excellent care they took of myself and a group of tourists from Yorkshire that I had also brought with me. But they told me that if I was going to be returning from England again what they would really like was pheasant feathers.”
Last year he took them a dozen pheasant feathers by there were not enough for each tribesman.
“This year I began collecting feathers earlier,” Mr Fuller said. “I picked up 50 in total and have sent them in the post. I hope the Samburu warriors enjoy their Christmas present.”
The feathers will be distributed among the tribesmen by BBC wildlife presenter and elephant conservationist Saba Douglas-Hamilton, who runs the camp alongside her conservationist father and other members of the family.
According to Ms Douglas-Hamilton, the gift will go down a treat. “Pheasant feathers are the single most sought after fashion item in Samburu,” she said.