In the mid 1990s investment companies sprung up offering huge returns on ostrich farming. The promise was that you could get 70 per cent or more and never get your feet muddy, or even have to see your ostriches. The birds would lay and endless supply of valuable eggs and the companies offered to buy them back.
Ostrich fever took hold, and birds changed hands at 10 times their true market value. It seemed too good to be true - and it was. The Department of Trade moved in and closed down the companies on the grounds that that they were running pyramid schemes. In the case of the biggest company, the Ostrich Farming Corporation, an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office revealed that the directors had also been siphoning off millions of pounds into offshore accounts, and three directors went to prison.
In this programme, Jolyon Jenkins tries to discover why so many apparently intelligent people fell for the ostrich scams. He also discovers what happened to the ostriches when the Ostrich Farming Corporation collapsed, and follows the fortunes of the two companies, each run by retired military officers, which were set up to try to carry on ostrich farming.