ORIENTAL PIED HORNBILL WILD POPULATION GETS A BOOST WITH JURONG BIRD PARK’S RELEASE OF THREE BIRDS IN PULAU UBIN

Release will add to the genetic pool of Oriental Pied Hornbills in the wild; bird unsighted in Singapore for over 140 years prior to 1994.

An Oriental Pied hornbill in Jurong Bird Park being measured from bill tip to rear bill intersection prior to a planned release for the purpose of increasing the genetic pool of the species’ wild population.
An Oriental Pied hornbill in Jurong Bird Park being measured from bill tip to rear bill intersection prior to a planned release for the purpose of increasing the genetic pool of the species’ wild population.

Singapore, 8 July 2013 – In an effort to diversify the genetic pool of wild hornbills in Singapore, Jurong Bird Park will release three Oriental Pied Hornbills from their collection to Pulau Ubin on 10 July.

“Increasing the genetic pool of Oriental Pied Hornbills or any other bird is important to the conservation of the species because it allows for a healthier population of these birds. With more genetic diversity, the species is less susceptible to diseases,” said Dr Minerva Bongco-Nuqui, Curator, Avian, Jurong Bird Park.

Jurong Bird Park is the first institution globally to successfully incubate and hatch Oriental Pied Hornbills. The park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented.
Jurong Bird Park is the first institution globally to successfully incubate and hatch Oriental Pied Hornbills. The park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented.

Earlier in March, the Bird Park became the first institution globally to successfully artificially incubate and hatch three Oriental pied hornbill eggs, which had been rescued from Pulau Ubin by officers from the National Parks Board (NParks). These three chicks have been absorbed into the Park’s collection. Retaining these three chicks enables the Park to increase the breeding genetic pool of the existing collection. Similarly, releasing three other birds to Pulau Ubin gives the wild population of Oriental Pied Hornbills greater diversity in the genetic pool.

The Oriental Pied Hornbills selected for release include a bonded pair which are captive bred and a male which was donated to the Park. In preparation for the release and to allow these birds to acclimatise, whole fruit found on the island have been introduced into their diet. These birds were also tested to be free from diseases before the release.

Ahead of the release, the Oriental Pied Hornbills have undergone a physical measurement and health check. Data like the microchip number, sex, age, body length and casque length were recorded and kept for conservation and research purposes. Conservationists can extrapolate from this data as a reference point and make inferences to the general overview of the population, to understand the group’s dynamics, leading to better management of the population.

On 10 July, the bonded pair and one male hornbill will set forth from Jurong Bird Park for Pulau Ubin to be released. They will join an estimated 60 Oriental Pied Hornbills on the offshore island. The release site was chosen as it is the same location from which three Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued in January this year.

“NParks has been working closely with Jurong Bird Park and the Singapore Avian Conservation Project team in hornbill conservation since 2004. Due to the concerted efforts of the parties involved, the population of Oriental Pied Hornbills in the wild has increased from a few individuals to about 100 hornbills all over Singapore. In addition to being a part of Singapore’s natural heritage, Oriental Pied Hornbills are also natural dispersers of seeds. As such, the birds reach various areas in Singapore, including remote forested areas in our nature reserves, re-populating the island with plants. This adds to the rich biodiversity of flora and fauna in our City in a Garden. Today, we are very excited with another step in our ex-situ conservation efforts and the release of three Oriental Pied Hornbills,” said Wong Tuan Wah, Director (Conservation), NParks.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill disappeared from Singapore in the mid-1800s, possibly due to hunting and loss of suitable habitats. In 1994, a pair was sighted on Pulau Ubin. Once virtually disappeared from Singapore, the bird is today re-establishing healthy colonies here, thanks to the collective efforts of the NParks, Jurong Bird Park, and Singapore Avian Conservation Project (SACP).

Jurong Bird Park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented. The Park has 17 Oriental Pied Hornbills, some of which can be seen at the Hornbills & Toucans exhibit. During breeding season which takes place from November to March, cameras will be installed in the Oriental Pied Hornbill exhibit, and visitors can catch a glimpse of nesting activities through television screens placed at the exhibit.

JURONG BIRD PARK ACHIEVES A GLOBAL FIRST WITH THREE WILD ORIENTAL PIED HORNBILL EGGS SUCCESSFULLY INCUBATED

Number of wild Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore increase ten-fold since 2005 through joint conservation efforts.

3 Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued from Pulau Ubin and brought to Jurong Bird Park. All three chicks eat 11, eight and four days old respectively. This is the first time globally OPH eggs from the wild have been successfully artificially incubated.
3 Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued from Pulau Ubin and brought to Jurong Bird Park. All three chicks eat 11, eight and four days old respectively. This is the first time globally OPH eggs from the wild have been successfully artificially incubated.
3 Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued from Pulau Ubin and brought to Jurong Bird Park. Chicks at 24 days old, 20 days old and 16 days old. This is the first time globally OPH eggs from the wild have been successfully artificially incubated.
3 Oriental pied hornbill eggs were rescued from Pulau Ubin and brought to Jurong Bird Park. Chicks at 24 days old, 20 days old and 16 days old. This is the first time globally OPH eggs from the wild have been successfully artificially incubated.

Singapore, 08 March 2013 – In a global first, three Oriental Pied Hornbill eggs rescued from Pulau Ubin have been successfully incubated and hatched at Jurong Bird Park’s Breeding & Research Centre.

“This is the first time Oriental Pied Hornbills have been successfully artificially incubated, and it represents a big step in the conservation of these magnificent creatures native to Singapore and South East Asia,” said Dr Luis Carlos Neves, DVM, Assistant Director, Avian, Jurong Bird Park. “Oriental Pied Hornbills have very unique breeding behavior wherein the female seals herself into a tree cavity to lay eggs and raise the chicks. It is extremely challenging to artificially incubate these eggs, and it is rarely attempted. The fact that we have succeeded is good news for the global avian community as there is currently very limited data on these fascinating birds.”

The three rescued eggs had been abandoned by their mother. On 7 January, Rangers from National Parks Board (NParks) on Pulau Ubin found a nest with a broken seal, and after it was ascertained that the female hornbill had abandoned the nest, the eggs were sent to Jurong Bird Park where they were artificially incubated.

Jurong Bird Park welcomed the first hornbill chick hatchling on 25 January, weighing 22.6g. The second chick hatched 3 days later on 28 January, weighing 21.8g. The last chick hatched on 1 February, at 20g.

After the chicks hatched, they were fed six times a day, on a diet consisting of a mixture of fruit and dried insects. At a month old, they are fed thrice a day, but with an increase in fruit and commercial avian pellets.

Although listed as Least Concern on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red list, Oriental Pied Hornbills were not seen in Singapore for 140 years prior to 1994. The last sighting formally recorded was in 1855 by Alfred Russell Wallace. There were various inconclusive sightings over the following years. In 1994, a pair of wild hornbills was sighted on Pulau Ubin. Three years later, the first breeding record of hornbills was observed on Pulau Ubin. By 2005, there were about 10 individuals in the wild. That same year, a collaborative study between Jurong Bird Park, NParks and Singapore Avian Conservation Project was initiated with the intention to study the breeding and conservation of these birds.

With the knowledge gained from observing these birds in the Bird Park, artificial nest boxes were introduced to Pulau Ubin, which greatly increased the breeding of the Oriental Pied Hornbills. During the length of the five year project, Oriental Pied Hornbill numbers in the wild increased from around 10 individuals to 50 individuals. Today there are between 75 – 100 wild Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore.

“In addition to being able to marvel at these beautiful birds which are part of the Singaporean heritage, the significant increase in Oriental Pied Hornbill numbers in the wild means that Singapore has more natural fruit dispersers. These mid-sized birds regurgitate some fruit whole, while other fruit are dropped along the way before they are eaten. In this manner, the birds reach areas in Singapore which are untouched and even unknown, helping to re-populate the island with fruit trees,” noted Dr Luis Carlos Neves.

Jurong Bird Park has one of the largest collections of hornbills globally, with 17 species represented. The Park has 16 Oriental Pied Hornbills, some of which can be seen at the Hornbills & Toucans exhibit. During breeding season which takes place from November to March, cameras will be installed in the Oriental Pied Hornbill exhibit, and visitors can catch a glimpse of nesting activities through television screens placed at the exhibit.

For more information about Jurong Bird Park, please visit www.birdpark.com.sg.

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