The Johannesburg zoo recently welcomed new and important young members of the animal family into its fold: a group of four new southern ground hornbill chicks. These adorable shots of the chicks in question surfaced on the internet yesterday (February 16, 2011):These birds have, in recent years, fallen into a harsh situation as their habitats have come under fire from farming expansion into certain areas. Added to this are the risk of poison ingestion from baits left out for jackals, and an extremely important natural factor: these birds typically start breeding only from eight years of age, raising only one chick each to fledgling, every nine years. This translates into an extremely slow repopulating process, with breeding females laying two eggs, one of which will become a chick. These birds can live to be extremely old.The Mabula ground hornbill conservation project, with which the zoo is involved, observes hornbill nests, removing the second, otherwise doomed, chick from the nest after making sure the first is healthy and will make it past adolescence. From here the group hand rears it in an attempt to help the repopulation movement. “We have been involved with the Mabula project for about four or five years, and our chief executive [Stephen van der Spuy] has been on the board for a number of years, but the hand-raising of chicks is a new and recent development,” says executive manager of marketing and education at the zoo, Louise Gordon.
The zoo has stated that it is looking for donations of funds from the public for help with rearing and feeding these chicks until they mature and are released back into the wild. The zoo can be contacted on 011 646 2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , for anybody interested in helping with this worthwhile project.