The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project researchers visit HESC; and our southern ground hornbill, Skewy, lays her first egg

hesc- southern ground hornbill

Researchers from the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project recently visited us to conduct research on the effects of hormones on throat coloration, and in particularly the cause of blue throat coloration in males.

The study required fecal samples (on three consecutive days) from as many southern ground hornbills as possible. This is an entirely non-invasive procedure and simply involves observing the birds from outside the enclosure until they defecate.  Researchers would then enter the enclosure to collect the samples and exit immediately afterwards.

It took hours of sitting in Gumpie and Skewy’s company to collect these samples. Fortunately for us, Gumpie’s antics kept us entertained!

hesc- southern ground hornbill

These birds are on ‘breeding loan’ from Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, and we feel privilege to have the opportunity to take care of them.

On the last day of sample taking, we noticed that Skewy did not leave her nest. Upon investigation, we saw that she had laid her first egg – but sadly it was cracked. We don’t know what caused the crack, but to ensure future eggs don’t suffer a similar fate we’ve added lining to Skewy’s nest for extra comfort and protection.

hesc- southern ground hornbill

Southern ground hornbills mate for life and can live up to 70 years. It can take as long as 5-6 years for them to lay eggs, with two eggs being laid over a period of 2-3 weeks. The second egg is laid as ‘insurance’ just in case something happens to the first egg. Breeding facilities usually remove the second egg as soon as it’s laid because the bigger chick will eat the younger sibling when it hatches. At breeding facilities the eggs are incubated and raised by curators to ensure the survival of these special and critically endangered creatures.

We however, won’t interfere in Skewy’s case especially as the first egg was already damaged. We are keeping our fingers crossed that her next egg is healthy and what a huge breakthrough that would be for our breeding programme!

We will keep you posted…