Hornbill Holdings

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At Lake Nakuru National Park, we had the luck of seeing a pair of the largest hornbill in the world, namely the Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri). These hornbills are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are now confined to national parks and reserves. We observed this carnivorous species apparently scavenging on a discarded carcass. These highly territorial birds need areas of 100 sq. kilometers per group, even in the best habitat; thus their main threats are habitat loss, specifically the loss of prime breeding trees in fire, foraging ground in forest clearance for agriculture, and, somewhat obscurely, the ‘actions of African elephants’ (BirdLife International, Bucorvus leadbeateri). While culturally ground hornbills are revered, the modernization of Africa has gone some ways in lifting taboos against killing them and in some cases, even direct persecution has resulted. Their habit of attacking their reflections in windowpanes and consuming posioned bait, combined with their slow reproductive rates and lengthy lifespans (up to 30 years for fledged birds) all are further threats to the survival of this stunning species.

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