The Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

In October 2014, I visited the South Africa at the invitation of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to participate in a design workshop for the creation of a new hand-rearing facility for Southern Ground Hornbills.

Virginia Zoo has supported the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project as one of our main conservation programs in recent years and this was a great opportunity to see the project (and birds) in person while also contributing to the forward progress of this important work. On arrival I visited the Mabula project base camp and was able to spend some time with Project Manager Lucy Kemp tracking a family group of ground hornbills living at that location, before we headed to the Loskop Dam Nature Reserve that is managed by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency who were hosting the design workshop. Loskop Dam Nature Reserve cover an area of 148 square km and lies around the massive Loskop Dam on the Olifants River, it is a beautiful nature reserve and already houses an existing hand-rearing facility, which the project hopes to expand and make into a centralized hand-rearing facility rather than have chicks reared at several different locations. The workshop brought together a good cross section of stakeholders and scientists and was produced a good design concept that was supported by everyone involved.

Following the stay at Loskop Dam I was also able to spend a couple of days visiting Kruger National Park and the adjoining Sabi Sands reserve area with Lucy Kemp which provided an inspirational opportunity to see a wide cross section of the countries wildlife while also looking for ground hornbill nest sites. Finally I also took the opportunity to visit Johannesburg Zoo and Monticasino Bird Gardens while passing through Johannesburg on my way home to see their work participating in the Ground Hornbill conservation program.

Roger Sweeney, Assistant Director Virginia Zoo