DECLINE IN SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILLS (BUCORVUS LEADBEATERI) IN NORTHERN ZULULAND
Lucy Kemp and Alan Kemp
Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project

 

Abstract
There is evidence that the Southern Ground hornbill (SGH; Bucorvus leadbeateri) has declined in northern KwaZulu-Natal, especially during the 1990s. SGHs prefer open to lightly wooded habitats where the grass and forb cover is sparse and/or shorter than knee-height (50 cm). It is here that they catch their prey of small animals as they walk along on the ground, only resorting to large trees or cliffs when they need to roost or breed. In the Pongola, Mkuze and iMfolozi River valleys, the population decline correlates with a change in land use from cattle to game farming/conservation, apparently resulting in lower stocking rates and grazing pressures, and therefore taller and denser ground cover. This cause of decline, which we term the “Undergrazed Hypothesis”, may even extend to the larger game reserves in the area, exacerbated by the naturally low density of SGHs (~100 km2/group) that makes these small protected populations partially reliant on the surrounding commercial and communal lands and hence sensitive to changes in their land use. An important lacuna is SGH status in communal (ex KwaZulu homeland) areas, with conflicting reports of exploding human populations in some areas and declines in others, plus increased traditional harvest as potential exacerbating factors. We would like to present our provisional data for discussion in order to help us understand and thus address this decline of a charismatic savanna species that is edging towards Critically Endangered within South Africa.

 

Presentation Topic
DECLINE IN SOUTHERN GROUND HORNBILLS (BUCORVUS LEADBEATERI) IN NORTHERN ZULULAND
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Email Lucy Kemp