Spot on, pooky
(and well done, Dewi - via PM, too
At present, Southern Ground-Hornbills are considered internationally as ‘Vulnerable’ throughout their range in Africa by the IUCN, but within South Africa they have been classified as ‘Endangered', with their numbers outside of formally protected areas are still declining. It is even likely that the birds will soon meet the IUCN Red Data List Criteria as being ‘Critically Endangered’ in South Africa.
It is estimated that there are only about 1500 Ground-Hornbills left in South Africa, of which half are safe within the protected areas of the greater Kruger National Park The birds live in social, cooperatively breeding groups that consist of between two to nine birds (mean group size 3.6), but with only one alpha male and one breeding female per group and the rest of the group as helpers. This means there are only an estimated 417breeding groups in the whole of South Africa, while data from the Kruger National Park shows that, on average, only one chick is raised to adulthood every nine years.
The reasons for their decline are predominantly: Loss of habitat:
This affects both quality of foraging habitats and loss of suitable breeding sites through human exploitation of trees, thus reducing the number of available nest sites. Over-utilization of savannas, leading to loss of ground cover and/or encroachment of woody bushes, and afforestation of grasslands, both lead to reduction in the quality and area of foraging habitat available to the hornbills. This is coupled with expanding human settlements and plantations that further seriously reduce the amount of useful habitat.Loss of nesting trees:
The hornbills need a tree with a cavity with an internal diameter of at least 40cm. The aptly named Leadwood is the most frequently used and long-lasting tree nest site in South Africa, but the softer-wooded fig, ebony and marula are also used and, where it occurs, the mighty baobab. Conservation of these key tree species is as important as caring for the hornbills themselves. Where hornbills nest in cavities on cliffs there less chance of their site being damaged or lost.Secondary poisoning:
Whole groups have been eliminated by indirect poisoning during campaigns against livestock-predators and rabies-carriers, to which their systematic terrestrial foraging makes them especially prone. Poison is also used directly against problem birds, or eaten indirectly when bait for other birds such as vultures is poisoned.