New wheels help the endangered Southern Ground Hornbill
Mar 27th, 09:43
IMPERIAL Logistics group company IMPERIAL Truck Rental recently heeded a call for help from an unusual source – the Southern Ground Hornbill.
While species like rhinos, cheetahs and wild dogs get the lion’s share of news headlines, public interest and corporate donations, this special bird is quietly facing extinction in Africa. Without conservation intervention, it is projected that we could lose the Southern Ground Hornbill in as little as 50 years.
IMPERIAL Truck Rental was alerted to the bird’s plight by the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project, a registered non-profit organisation that is working to ensure the survival of the species. One of its main functions, according to project manager Lucy Kemp, is to harvest (together with partners Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology) and transport “doomed second chicks” from the nests of Southern Ground Hornbills around the country (Mpumalanga, Limpopo and now expanding to Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape). Kemp elaborates: “According to the long-term data collection in the Kruger National Park, one of the factors contributing to the Southern Ground Hornbill’s situation is that it breeds very slowly, with the bird first breeding at around 8 years of age, and thereafter, it successfully raises just one chick every nine years. Two eggs are laid at each breeding attempt and the parents can only care for one, abandoning the other. The second chick acts as a natural insurance policy to ensure that all the energy put into breeding amounts to something.”
It is this second redundant chick that is the basis of the project’s conservations efforts. “We take them from wild nests to specialised hand-rearing facilities, and they are later reintroduced back into the wild. This reintroduction effort aims to restock areas where the birds have become locally extinct (60% of their natural range), to halt the decline in their numbers, and slowly work towards rebuilding the population to sustainable levels.”
IMPERIAL Truck Rental donated a vehicle to the project, for use during its busiest time of year. “It was a godsend,” Kemp enthuses. “It allowed our teams to cover the necessary areas to facilitate the annual nest checking, to ensure that we know what is happening in terms of breeding success and can thus pick up any issues - such as disease in the population - early. And it enabled us to safely transport chicks from suitable monitored nests . Our other vehicles are old and this is the first time we have not felt unsafe in our vehicle while travelling remote areas, often at night. We were able to get the chicks (together with Airlink) to the hand-rearers as quickly and safely as possible, giving them the very best chance of survival.
“Thus far, all but two of the eleven harvested chicks have survived and are growing well.”
IMPERIAL Truck Rental will continue its association with the project going forward, says managing director Johnny Wright. . “We are delighted to be assisting such a worthwhile initiative,” he reports, “these really are very special birds.”
Living almost as long as humans, the Southern Ground Hornbill plays an important role in pest control in Africa as it eats small animals – from termites and rodents to snakes. It is the largest bird in the world to breed in cooperative groups of between three and 12. Only one pair breeds and the rest help them to raise the chick. Less than 500 groups remain in South Africa - half of them safe within the boundaries of the greater Kruger National Park.
The birds are also vulnerable to accidental poisoning by farmers, and are sometimes directly persecuted because their territorial behaviour leads them to fight the ‘enemy’ in their reflections in windows and this results in many broken windows. To counter this, the Mabula Hornbill Project has education and awareness campaigns aimed at schools and farmers’ associations in areas where the birds occur and where they are being reintroduced.Click here for more information on IMPERIAL Logistics
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