good rains = good breeding season = good harvest

The good rains this breeding season meant that we were able to harvest to capacity. The harvested chicks and captive-bred chicks (from Montecasino Bird Gardens who got their start in life care of Joanne Meyer) were all reared at the' wild' centre this year and supermom Delecia Gunn, Mpumalamga Tourism and Parks Agency, had a 100% survival rate. This is how we mean to continue with the building of the specialised hand-rearing centre this year. We have almost raised all the funds required and will start proceedings in April. In addition, two captive breeding pairs matured this year with Witchy-Witch and Raymond rearing their own chick successfully. Delecia reared their second-hatched chick and then successfully returned this chick to the parents, while Skewbeak and Thanda Thula (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre) laid their first egg but sadly broke it. 

Artificial nest prototype

Newcastle's Disease Virus 

vaccine success

In a research collaboration with Dr Katja Koeppel from Onderstepoort Veterinary Department and Dr Louis Maarten from Deltamune a successful vaccine for prevention of Newcastle's Disease has been developed, specifically for use on ground-hornbills in the reintroduction programme. The vaccine was inserted into a developing chicken embryo and then we are able to feed the vaccine to already free-roaming reintroduced Southern Ground-Hornbills. This removes the need to capture and handle the birds and allows us to administer booster doses if required.  This is essential as much of the existing range of the species also experiences natural outbreaks of the virus, causing massive die-offs of small bird species which the ground-hornbills then feast on. It is a disease that is incurable and so it is vital to safe-guard the precious reintroduction stock in this manner. There appears to be inherent immunity in wild birds that is lacking in the artificially reared chicks. We continue our research into better understanding this threat so as to ensure we can best manage for it. Our work was presented by Dr Koeppel at the AAVA conference in the United States.

New transmitter attachments

We continue to experiment with safe transmitter attachments so ensuring that the tracking devices we use on te birds are 100% safe, but also to ensure we get the data we need and can maximise the time that the transmitters are attached. 

Horseback monitoring success

Using our two newest team members, Flea and Jamtin, donated by Horizon Horse Back Safaris, have proven excellent for monitoring our newly reintroduced ground-hornbills. They accept the ponies as they do any other wildlife, and so we are able to get much closer before they change their behaviours due to our proximity. This also keeps the team safe from buffalo, rhino and all the other great and wonderful things we share our habitat with.  

Capacity building

The past year has been a building and growing year for us as a team. Lucy Kemp has wrapped up her PhD, Sophie Neller is completing her MSc, Natasha Nel is studying Animal Health Diploma, Nthabiseng Monama has graduated with a Nature Conservation Diploma and Patience Shito has just embarked on her MSc. All for the Southern Ground-Hornbill. 

Our full biannual report (April - September 2016) is available upon request from