Ground hornbill conservation – Read more here

Southern Ground Hornbills are large, black birds standing just under a metre tall. They are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and only 1500 are thought to remain in South Africa. Their biggest threat is loss of habitat and as agricultural practices conflict with their space, loss of nesting areas is a particular problem. They also fall innocent victims to snares and trapping practices used by farmers against the perceived pests of jackal and caracal. The birds use extemely large trees in which to nest and may only produce chicks every 1 to 8 years.

Project aims:

To provide a safe and suitable habitat in which Ground hornbill can exist and also breed in artificial nests provided for them.

 What’s being done?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

To date, 2 artificial nests have been constructed and placed around the reserve. The design of the box is important and guidelines have been obtained from the Ground hornbill conservation project to follow.

The role of volunteers:

  • Building of nesting boxes – Each box must be built from scratch using timber, screws and hand drills. A landing platform must also be attached so the male bird can land and feed the female nesting inside. The box must then be camouflaged on the outside using tree bark. Bark is collected and added to the box using a combination of screws and wood glue.
  • Nesting box placement – The next challenge is placement of the box. Unfortunately it must be positioned at least 5 metres off the ground which as it sounds, can be quite a logistical nightmare! Volunteers are on hand to assist with the equipment and tools needed for successful placement.
  • Nesting box monitoring – Ground hornbills live up to 60 years old and don’t do anything in a hurry! The good news is they have been heard on Pidwa, and on a number of occasions very close by to one of the box sites. Continual monitoring must be carried out to check if any hornbills have moved in. Once there, there may the chance to set up a camera. At this stage the Ground hornbill association will also be contacted to come and record the individuals. While the birds normally have 2 chicks, the second one always dies. This is normally as a result of siblicide, killed by its stronger and more competitive brother or sister. As part of their work, the Ground hornbill association will collect the second chick (which would die anyway) and hand-rear it to help increase numbers of the specially protected bird.


© Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme

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