Wrocław Zoo has reason to celebrate as a female Palawan hornbill, which is an endangered species marked as “vulnerable”, was seen leading a brood of three hatchlings out of a nesting hut in early August.
Native to the Philippines, South-East Asia, Palawan hornbills reproduce in no other Zoo in the world but Wrocław Zoo. In addition to this year’s hatching, the birds managed to lay eggs last year, giving birth to three chicks. In fact, this is the fourth time that the hornbill reproduced in Wrocław Zoo.
With this year’s and previous successes, Wrocław Zoo’s experience draws the attention of animal specialists from Katala Foundation based in the homeland of the Palawan hornbill, South-East Asia, who seek to learn from their Polish colleagues with the aim of reintroducing the species, and its cousin the Sulu hornbill, to their natural habitats.
“There are 16 hornbill species living in the Philippines, and one of the most endangered ones is the Palawan hornbill that we have been breeding for a couple of years with great success,” the head of Wrocław Zoo Radosław Ratajszczak said, adding that “the species is a great model for further protective activities. Its closest cousin, the Sulu hornbill, currently numbers only 19-22 birds. Our experience will prove invaluable for saving this species. This is because they [the Sulu hornbills] nest in a very similar way [to the Palawan hornbill] and display very similar behaviour. I assume that we are able to repeat our breeding success with this even more endangered species.”
Palawan hornbills successfully reproduced at Wrocław Zoo for the first time in 2015. The dynasty’s forebears were a female called Sofia and a male called Avilon, who arrived at the zoo in 2012.
The forest-dwelling Palawan hornbill is one of the least known bird species, and one of the most endangered. Its plumage is predominantly black, with a white tail, a dark green gloss on its upperparts and a large creamy-white beak. It grows up to 70 centimetres (28 in) long and can weigh up to 750 grams (26 oz).
The species is endemic to Palawan island and another five smaller nearby islands. It is feared that they may become extinct in ten years due to the destruction of their habitat and being hunted for food.
Birds from this species are distinguished by their breeding habits. The male bricks the female inside an enclosed nest for the whole breeding season, leaving only a small hole, through which it feeds the female. The female breaks through the wall and leaves the hideout when the nestling is ready to fledge.