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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Growing Concern Over Status of African Birds

Three African birds recently had their species survival outlooks lowered. The African Penguin changed from vulnerable to endangered. The Ludwig's Bustard changed from least concern to endangered. The Southern Ground Hornbill was moved from least concern to vulnerable. All three live primarily in southern Africa, where habitats are growing smaller for these and other birds.

The Southern Ground Hornbill (above) is losing its nesting habitat, as large areas in South Africa are cleared naturally by African elephants, and unnaturally for agricultural use. It is the largest species of hornbill, most noted for the large red patches of skin on the face and throat.

African penguins, also called Jackass Penguins for their donkey-like braying, have seen a 60% decrease in population over their last three generations. Their numbers have dwindled for a variety of reasons. Their eggs have long been considered a delicacy, and into the mid-nineteenth century, eggs were smashed after a few days to ensure that only fresh ones reached the public. When the iron ore tanker, MV Treasure, sank in 2000, 19,000 adult penguins were covered in oil. While almost all were rehabilitated and released, the year's breeding season was largely unsuccessful. African penguins are facing even more strife, as nearly 500 individuals have died because of the cold winter weather in South Africa in the last few days.

Ludwig's Bustard has been shown to have a particular problem with South Africa's development. Because of their large size, they are prone to collide with power lines and a solution has not yet been proposed. Visual deterrents have been added to some power lines, but have so far proven unsuccessful.

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