JURONG BIRD PARK ACHIEVES ANOTHER FIRST WITH SUCCESSFUL ARTIFICIAL INCUBATION OF GREAT PIED HORNBILLS

Singapore, 30 May 2011Jurong Bird Park, the world’s largest avian paradise, has scored a first yet again with the successful artificial incubation of two great pied hornbills, one of the most notoriously difficult species to breed in captivity. Eggs were carefully removed from the hornbills’ nest box this breeding season and incubated at the park’s Breeding and Research Centre (BRC). This was necessary as the breeding pair had cannibalised the chicks the previous year.

“While such cannibalisation behaviours are natural and common in hornbills, it differs from species to species. With the oriental pied hornbills, it is the survival of the fittest where the weakest hatchling is usually killed and eaten by the female,” said Dr Minerva Bongco-Nuqui, Curator, Jurong Bird Park.

To avoid a similar situation, avian keepers kept a close watch on the nesting pair, and quickly extracted their eggs the second week after laying. “Hornbills are generally very selective and monogamous when it comes to mating and take a while to breed as they would require a long time to bond. Conservation and captive breeding are crucial for great pied hornbills since they are losing their natural habitat because of rapid urbanisation and human activities,” she added.

Due to the size of this magnificent bird and its special nesting requirements, captive breeding is especially difficult as tree cavities need to be big enough. Hornbills have unique breeding characteristics as the female seals herself in the nest, leaving a tiny slit through which her male counterpart feeds her foraged or hunted food. She would remain sealed in the nest for up to three months, when her chicks are ready to fledge and leave the nest.

The pair has been together for over 10 years, and had their first offspring in 2006. Their two new chicks hatched in the BRC on April 14 and 20 respectively, and have been under the care of Mr Elden Gabayoyo, the Avian Management Officer in charge of the Centre.

“As these hatchlings were artificially incubated, we were very careful about their diet,” he noted. “In the first few days, they were fed with mice pinkies, papaya, vitamin supplements and Pedialyte for hydration. When they grow older, they will eat mealworms, crickets and fruit such as papaya and banana, and will eventually be moved to the exhibit when they can feed on their own.”

This is the first time the Jurong Bird Park has artificially incubated a hornbill species. The latest offspring brings the total number of great pied hornbills at the park to 17. They are one of the largest members of the hornbill family, and can live up to 50 years in captivity. They are found in the forests of India, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. Admired for their size and bright colours, they are prized for their body parts, e.g. beaks and heads are used as charms and souvenirs, feathers used in head dresses and flesh as medicine; hence the urgent need for greater conservation efforts for this and other hornbill species.

WORLD’S LARGEST BIRD PARADISE – JURONG BIRD PARK – TURNS 40

YEAR-LONG CELEBRATIONS KICK OFF WITH PARK DISCOUNTS, SOUVENIR GIVEAWAYS AND FACEBOOK CONTESTS

Singapore, 4 January 2011Jurong Bird Park, one of four wildlife attractions managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), with the others being Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, by offering discounts off admission prices and gifts to selected visitors.

From now till the end of January, Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who turn 40 this year get 40% off admission ticket prices. From 3-9 January, those who celebrated their 40th birthday on 3 Jan 2011 will get free admission into the park, and the first 40 who come in also get an exclusive Bird Park 40th anniversary T-shirt and a cute plush toy.

Next month, celebrations continue with a Facebook contest to encourage couples to share their 40 years of romantic moments at the park. Couples will be asked to dust off their old photo albums and post pictures of them during their courtship days or weddings. Winners will walk away with free admission tickets and a limited edition Valentine’s Day YooHoo plush toy.

Other exciting activities planned for the year include a wildlife photography contest, as well as the launch of a play area for kids at the park and a brand new Birds of Prey show.

Opened on 3 January 1971, Jurong Bird Park is the first wildlife park to be established in Singapore and is today the largest bird park in the world. Situated on a 20.2-hectare hillside, the award-winning park is a haven for 4,600 birds representing 380 of the world‟s bird species. As the oldest wildlife park here, it is an excellent model of success, spearheading avian conservation and education infused with fun recreation for both young and old, locals and tourists.

Over the years, the Bird Park has made significant strides towards establishing itself as the region’s leading institution for the conservation of avian biodiversity. In the area of ex-situ conservation, it has a Breeding and Research Centre tasked to ensure the welfare, breeding and promulgation of birdlife, and has won several accolades for its breeding programmes.

For example, it was the first park in the world to successfully breed the black hornbill in captivity in 1995 and the twelve-wired Bird of Paradise for which the park received the Breeders‟ Award from the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society in 2001. In 2006, the Bird Park received the Conservation & Research Award for the Oriental Pied Hornbill Conservation Project by IV International Symposium on Breeding Birds in Captivity (ISBBC). More recently in 2010, the park successfully bred and hatched the highly endangered red fronted macaw, hyacinth macaw and the near threatened great pied hornbill species in captivity. Committed to conservation, research and providing the best possible veterinary care to the birds in the park, the world class Avian Hospital was established in 2006. It is also Singapore‟s designated avian rescued centre for the treatment and rehabilitation of wild birds. The Bird Park frequently collaborates with relevant government agencies in re-introducing indigenous species back into the wild, such as the oriental pied hornbill in its most recent project.

In addition, the park is one of Singapore’s most popular tourist and family destinations. Key attractions such as the Bird Discovery Centre, African Waterfall Aviary, Lory Loft, Southeast Asian Birds Aviary, and the newly launched Penguin Coast as well as its daily shows attracted close to 900,000 visitors in 2009. The S$1.9 million Penguin Coast exhibit features six penguin species, one third of the world‟s total penguin species. It features the African Penguin, one of few species which live in the tropics, as well as five species of cold climate penguins in the indoor climate-controlled den of the exhibit. It was launched to spread greater awareness for the conservation of penguins by bringing visitors up close to these endearing birds.

”2011 represents a milestone for us at the Jurong Bird Park. It is a time for us to look back on our achievements and look ahead to new horizons. We have come a long way since our humble beginnings in the 1970s. Today, the Bird Park is a shining example of the successful integration of conservation, education and recreation. This is possible only with the passion and dedication shown by our staff towards the WRS mission of preserving birdlife biodiversity and spreading the message of conservation„, said Ms Fanny Lai, Group CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

“We hope Singaporeans will continue to have fond memories of their wonderful times spent at the Bird Park by participating in our 40th anniversary festivities throughout the year. Now would be a good time to pay yet another visit to the park and take a walk down memory lane by re-living those cherished moments,” she added.

For more information and the latest updates on the Jurong Bird Park‟s 40th anniversary celebrations, please visit www.birdpark.com.sg, or logon to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s Facebook page.

Front entrance of Jurong Bird Park (1985)
Jurong Falls Aviary, Jurong Bird Park (1971 -1980)
Visitors queuing up at front admission to purchase tickets (1971 – 1980)
Old tram system, Jurong Bird Park (1971 -1980)

RED-FRONTED MACAWS AND HORNBILL CHICKS ADD TO THE JOY THIS BREEDING SEASON AT JURONG BIRD PARK

Singapore, 12 July 2010 – It’s a full house, as far as the breeding season goes, at the Jurong Bird Park, with successful hatchings by four different species of birds, one of which is highly endangered. The park, which is the world’s largest bird park and one of four wildlife attractions by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), the others being Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari, recently hatched four red-fronted macaws, a great pied hornbill, an oriental pied hornbill and a black hornbill. The hatchings are part of an on-going award-winning breeding programme at the park, which is dedicated to the conservation of avian species.

“We are thrilled to welcome a nest-full of chicks into the park. The last hatching for the red-fronted macaw was 10 years ago. This time round, we had the rare occasion of having four eggs in one clutch, and we have successfully hatched all four eggs, which is quite an achievement,” said Mr Raja Segran, General Curator, Jurong Bird Park. “To add to the joy, we also welcomed three hornbill chicks, which greatly aid our ex-situ conservation efforts for these enigmatic species. Our award-winning breeding programme is a clear demonstration of our role and capabilities in the preservation of avian biodiversity.”

The red-fonted macaw is a highly endangered parrot species native to the mountainous area of south-central Bolivia. They are captured for the illegal pet trade and coupled with rapid habitat destruction, there are only a few hundred of them left in the wild.

Breeding season for the hornbills takes place annually from November to May the following year. Visitors to the Bird Park during this time may be able to catch a glimpse of the sealed-in nestbox, which typically signifies that the female hornbill and her eggs are in there. A narrow slit is left for the male hornbill to feed the female and eventually the chicks, until the female and chicks break out of the sealed-in nestbox. The great pied hornbill is the heaviest Asian hornbill and is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, due to their extreme selectivity for mates, as well as the long and strong pair bonds they form. It is listed as a threatened species because of hunting and habitat loss. The oriental pied hornbill was last sighted in Singapore more than 150 years ago, but it was only recently that they were once again sighted in 1994. They are the only truly wild hornbills found here. The black hornbill is a common species of hornbill found in various parts of Asia, such as Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

A recipient of many firsts, the Bird Park was the first globally to successfully breed the black hornbill in captivity in 1995. The Bird Park was also the first in the world to breed the Twelve-wired Bird of Paradise in captivity and received the Breeders’ Award from the American Pheasant and Waterfowl Society in 2001.  They were also a recipient of the Conservation & Research Award for Oriental Pied Hornbill Conservation Project by IV International Symposium on Breeding Birds in Captivity in 2006.

Courtesy of Bjorn Olesen - Our newly hatched red-fronted macaw hatchlings
An oriental pied hornbill at Jurong Bird Park
A row of black hornbills at Jurong Bird Park