COOL-er equipment for Southern Ground Hornbills

The Zoo has participated in conservation efforts aimed at protecting Southern ground hornbills for a number of years.

The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project has an established multi-pronged approach to addressing the Conservation Action Plan for the Southern Ground Hornbill. The project utilizes a combination of conservation biology restoration science, wildlife threat mitigation, community engagement and custodianship involvement and conservation education.

One element of the plan involves the harvest of the ‘2nd’ chick from wild nests, that would not survive if the older chick is healthy. This program has been actively practiced for several years with a good level of success. The chicks are collected from wild nests and driven to a hand-rearing center, which is often a several hour transit time.

We have been looking to enhance the equipment used to provide best practices of neonatal care environment during the transport of wild harvested chicks to the hand-rearing location. In the past, insulated boxes have been used with hot water containers. These boxes are adequate, but there is the potential risk of cooling in the event of a vehicle delay where a replacement source of replacement hot water is not available.

In 2015 we received a conservation grant from the Fresno Chafee Zoo to provide specialized cooler brooders (which are Rubbermaid coolers that have been adapted by the addition of sophisticated heating and thermostat equipment) that allows them to function as an incubator or brooder with a high degree of accuracy even under the most challenging of field work conditions. These units can be powered by either battery or car engine as a safer alternative than relying on hot water bottles to keep the newly hatched chicks warm during the long drive between collection and the hand-rearing center. Two of these units were purchased with funding provided by the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and the equipment is currently being tested before being sent to South Africa.