22 February 2005

South African Hornbill faces extinction

Loss of habitat looks set to put paid to one of South Africa's more distinctive and charismatic bird species, the southern ground hornbill.

The savannah-dwelling birds, once widespread across the country's grasslands, now face a "very real possibility" of extinction, says the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

There were less than 1 500 of the birds left in South Africa. The species had experienced a 50% decline in range and a 10 percent decline in numbers over the past three decades.

"A recent national workshop to evaluate the current status of the southern ground hornbill in South Africa and develop a conservation strategy for the species, revealed (they) are a lot more threatened than previously thought.

"A very real possibility exists that South Africa may lose its ground hornbills in the near future unless something radical is done. As an indicator of the current status of South Africa's savannah biome, the status of this species is alarming," EWT said in a statement.

According to the trust's Ground Hornbill Working Group manager, Kerryn Morrison, populations of the birds still exist along the Limpopo River valley, the Kruger National Park, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and as far south as the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape.

She told Sapa the main reason for the decline in the number of hornbills was transformation of its habitat and disturbance of its nesting sites, usually made in old trees or on cliff faces.

The southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is classified as "vulnerable" in the Eskom Red Data Book.

The turkey-sized birds, which can grow up to a metre in height, are easily recognised by their large bills and distinctive red face and throat markings.


Post a Comment

<< Home