Ground HornbillsDisney Conservation Fund

October 16, 2015

The Virginia Zoo is honored to be a 2015 Disney Conservation Fund grant recipient.

The Disney Conservation Fund was established in 1995 to combine the support from The Walt Disney Company and Guests to aid nonprofit organizations working to protect the plant and connect kids with nature.  Through its annual conservation grants program, the fund supports the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems, involving communities and addressing human needs. The fund has taken Disney’s legacy across the globe with nearly $30 million in grants to support conservation programs in 115 countries.

The Virginia Zoo was selected as one of only 82 organizations chosen to receive this annual grant.  We received $25,000 to be used for the conservation of the Southern Ground Hornbill (SGH) through the fantastic work of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project.  The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project specializes in conservation action and reintroduction biology for the Southern ground hornbill  through a multi-prolonged approach. This is built around four key program elements; 1) Reintroduction biology, 2) Threat mitigation, 3) Education & awareness, and 4) Custodianship and land use awareness.

This species of hornbill is the largest in the world and is native to areas south of the equator in Africa. Within South Africa, these hornbills have been listed as Endangered.

With this grant, the continuing work of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project field team will be supported through the next field season. The main project objectives include:

1) To confirm the present distribution and population structure of SGH groups globally. This includes groups both inside and outside of formally protected areas, This will be done in collaboration with all interested researchers, conservation organizations, communities and landowners. They will then add to the present database and population and status analysis as done in south Africa.

2) To conduct awareness and education programs in areas where SGHs exist(ed) and assist appropriate landowners in making their properties suitable for SGH (re)occupation.

3) To identify wild groups of SGHs that are not productive. This will be accomplished primarily through supplementation of individuals where the group structure is dysfunctional or through provision of a nest site where this is lacking.

4) To re-establish SGHs within those areas of their historical range, from which they have been extirpated but, where the habitats are still suitable to support groups.

5) To develop and maintain the infrastructure of funding, personnel, facilities and equipment to secure the continuity of this project.

6) To collaborate with all appropriate individuals, organizations and agencies to share on the prototype achieved by the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project in South Africa, as the central data base for dissemination.

7) To make available the expertise within the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project and associated ground hornbill action group to build capacity within the other areas of Africa, and so ensure completion of population counts throughout Africa, refinement of captive breeding for production in Africa and overseas, wild release of breeding stock from captive and harvested sources, and expansion of public awareness wherever possible.

8) To start a collection of population data on Northern Ground-Hornbills in Africa.

More information about the work of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project can be found on