Teamwork by Joburg Zoo staff ensured escaped endangered Ground Hornbill safely caught.

Johannesburg Zoo staff and keepers were kept busy for the most part of Wednesday 13th April when one of the Southern Ground Hornbills escaped from her sky kennel when the birds were being moved for renovations to their enclosure.

The Ground Hornbill pair form part of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Conservation Project aimed at breeding these endangered birds in both captive and natural environments. The Zoo has currently been raising 4 Ground Hornbill chicks for the project, three of whom are soon to be introduced to the adult pair with the fourth chick already successfully introduced.

Yesterday, Bird section curator, Lara Jordan planned to bring in additional roosting boxes and enrichment into the enclosure before the introduction of the new Hornbill family. All the birds have been living in close quarters to each other with the chicks in a smaller cordoned off section next to the adults' larger aviary.
The escape occurred when the birds were being moved to another area and the female broke free of her sky kennel and flew into the nearest tree in the Mountain Goat enclosure. Initially staff tried to lure the female by placing her mate, who was secured in the kennel below but unfortunately due to the stressful situation she took flight, which is the natural behavior for this species.

Zoo staff from different animal sections and departments joined in the rescue effort with Lara Jordan, the team leader briefing those involved on possible scenarios and rescue plans. In addition staff members trained in Ground Hornbill capture from Mabula Conservation Project were contacted and they travelled from Mabula Game reserve near Bela Bela in Limpopo to assist in the capture.

After seven hours of following the escaped Ground Hornbill through various antelope enclosures within the zoo, she came down from the trees and was caught by a visiting expert in animal capture, Mike Jordan. Mike was hiding behind a tree and when he heard her calling, he responded by calling back using Ground Hornbill vocalizations. When she came close enough he quickly grabbed her securing her beak and wings.

The Joburg Zoo is grateful to Ms. Alicia Heunis and Mr. Charles Mphamo from Mabula Ground Hornbill Project and Mike Jordan for their valuable assistance. Thank you to all zoo staff involved in the rescue without the entire team's effort and patience the rescue could not have gone so smoothly.

The Joburg Zoo will be having a 'Save the Ground Hornbill' fundraising walk/run on Sunday 1st of May. Tickets are R40 and the event starts at 7am. For more information go to

Prepared and issued by Candice Segal, Acting Brand and Communications manager on behalf of the Joburg Zoo. END.

Close Window << Back to Archived Press Releases