Wildlife: endangered oxpeckers making a comeback in KZN

2009-02-10 00:00

The re-introduction of red-billed oxpeckers in the Otto’s Bluff-Karkloof Valley area in July last year appears to have been a resounding success as the birds are breeding and spreading to other areas.

This has raised the hopes of conservationists that the birds will re-establish themselves in KwaZulu-Natal and reduce the need for farmers to dip their cattle.

The species died out in this area due to poisoning.

In July, 36 of the tiny tick-eating birds were released on Ihlanze Commercial Game Ranch.

The oxpeckers were captured on farms in Limpopo by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, which is co-ordinating the relocation of the birds throughout South Africa.

Ihlanze was chosen because of its high density of large wild animals, including buffalo, giraffe, eland, rhino and zebra.

“The oxpeckers are nature’s answer to keeping tick loads on wild animals down to an acceptable level,” said Dr Hans Grobler, who is monitoring the project.

Grobler said about 50% of the birds remained at Ihlanze following their release, while others have been seen on farms around Albert Falls and at private wildlife reserves as far as Tala near Eston.

“This has been well received by farmers. The exciting news is that the oxpeckers have bred and juvenile birds have been seen with the adults. Hopefully they will increase in the area and eventually decrease the amount of dipping,” he said.

Before the oxpeckers were released an extensive exercise was carried out by Kevin le Roux, a technician with the Animal Health Department, to ensure oxpecker-friendly cattle dips were used by farmers in the general area.

Grobler has appealed to farmers to use this dip, which has an image of little bird on the label.

He has also requested that any oxpecker sightings be reported to him at 084 5119547 or hansgrob@absamail.co.za.

He is interested in noting the number of birds, the presence of juveniles (darker feathers, black beak) and what animal they were perched.



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