May 2018 bring you all you dream of:
we dream of more ground-hornbills in the bush, more community engagement, the Baobab centre completed and to keep growing both our scope and our team skills.
Photo Natasha Nel
The Hon Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has committed to being a patron of our project. Given the extreme cultural importance of the Thunderbird to the Zulu nation, it is  an absolute privilege to be able to work with him in strengthening the existing cultural protection. This is the 'other' big population outside of our largest protected areas: the Greater Kruger National Park.
Understanding the value of species to humans is the first step in working out what conservation tools are best to use. Our cultural research programme Populations &Perceptions has interviewed people in three countries across a wide range of language groups. We are now, through analysis of these perceptions, tailoring our conservation action: it is certainly not one size fits all. 

Another successful harvest out of the way. This past summer the egg laying was so synchronised that we were able to complete collection of our quota in just one week. One of the major contributors to the success of the harvest was our new candling equipment specially designed for us by Lyon Technologies Inc, USA. We were able, by visiting the nest during early incubation, to ensure that we calculated hatching dates to within 48 hours. This required no follow up visits that may have risked disturbing the group and we were able to harvest plump, healthy, well-hydrated chicks.

What a year for the Southern Ground-Hornbill Action Group. We, together with the IUCN SSC, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Disney Conservation Fund and Mabula Private Game Reserve, hosted the 2nd Population and Habitat Viability Assessment in August 2017, hosted by the brilliant Prof. Mike Brufford. Just about all of the ground-hornbill conservation stakeholders attended, and we were able collectively to forge a clear path ahead for streamlining and fast-tracking the conservation of this species. In 2018 we will host a National Biodiversity Management Plan workshop with the Department of Environmental Affairs, and to ensure we all work with a centralised mandate and then all stakeholders will then be required to provide an annual report on progress. Watch this space for Project Thunderbird, an umbrella grouping will be the current Action Group morphed into a collective brand to ensure we present a united front and that all of our work is again, streamlined and as effective as possible - including nest provision, research, education, awareness and so much more. A MASSIVE thank you to all who brought their ideas, expertise and love of this iconic species to the table. A fascinating process that yielded some incredibly good new ways of tackling some issues we have been grappling with for years. 

We avoided any losses to the massive Avian Influenza outbreak late last year thanks to an excellent precautionary protocol developed by Tracy Rhese and Dr Katja Koeppel. All partners did their bit to minimise risks as much as possible. 

The IUCN Reintroduction course held in London was a brilliant training exercise - with a focus on the people aspects of reintroductions - how to make smart decisions, take all ideas and views into account and still ensure that reintroductions are fulfilling their primary goal of turning things around for a species.

Our education programme reached 15950 learners and 288 teachers in 2017 and we expanded our reach in three provinces
Nthabiseng leading the education work has made excellent progress in reaching new areas - all schools from the Kruger National Park Pafuri gate west towards Blouberg  - and so we have now reached all the schools for the Limpopo River Valley population. We have also made great progress in the communal areas around southern Kruger in collaboration with the Pfunanani Trust and Sabi Sands Wildtuin. 

We presented our work at the International Hornbill Conference in Kuching, Malaysia

We presented what implication for conservation  the molecular ecology of the species has, a poster about how endocrine systems plays a role in the social structures of the species, how community protection is keeping a whole sub-population safe, exploring cultural protection as a conservation tool, and how effective veterinary intervention serves as an excellent conservation tool .
The reintroduction programme is slowly gaining traction with the release of six more hand-reared birds into existing groups and the formation of one new group... with intrigueing outcomes that have taught us so much on how to keep improving our reintroduction protocols.
These included the safe and natural kidnapping of a juvenile from one group to be incorporated into another, and a sad incident of a youngster excluded from the group altogether and chased into an impenetrable area that the monitors could not access to assist with supplemental feed. 

                        We are on Instagram now!! Find us at ground.hornbill