Happy hatch month, Zazu!
Early this month, one of our birds with a big personality celebrated her 26th hatch day … Zazu the southern ground hornbill! Even though it sounds like she is old for a bird, southern ground hornbills can live up to 40 years under human care. Zazu is just a couple of years older than her companion and brother, Gumby, and both were hatched at the San Antonio Zoo. Zazu and Gumby spend most of their time standing on top of the log at the very front of their habitat, keeping a close eye on everyone who walks by them, and sometimes proudly showing guests their food items. Their diet consists of mice, rats, or other prey items that are like what they might eat out in the wild. We also like to give them big plastic toys in the back of the habitat for the birds to bang on with their beaks as well. Southern ground hornbills have very big powerful beaks, and Gumby and Zazu love to use them to catch bugs or bang on drums! Along with the banging noise you hear, Gumby and Zazu call to each other throughout the day, especially during breeding season, which occurs during the colder months. They have a very deep booming sound that they make back and forth to each other.
Southern ground hornbills are native to 16 countries in Africa, but their numbers are decreasing in the wild. Depending on the area, they can be listed as Vulnerable to Extinct. In South Africa, where the southern ground hornbill is listed as endangered, conservation organizations such as the Mabula Ground Hornbill Program are trying to prevent their extinction. Most of the time southern ground hornbills lay two eggs, but the parents typically only have enough resources to raise one. The Mabula Hornbill Project staff monitors nests and, if they find a nest with two chicks, they will remove and raise the second chick to rerelease it back into the wild. This increases the chances of survival for that second chick and increases the population. A win-win situation for the individual and the species!
Next time you are at the Zoo, make sure to stop by and say hi to Zazu and Gumby! And for more information on the Mabula Hornbill project, visit ground-hornbill.org.za.
Keeper I, Birds