Saturday, 21 June 2014

Hornbills 3: Tarictic Hornbill

With an estimated world population of only 1800 birds, the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill Penolopides panini is probably one of the rarest hornbills in the world. Already one subspecies, P.panini ticaensis from the island of Ticao is extinct as a result of deforestation, despite being describes as “abundant” in 1905, which makes it the first known extinction in historic times of any hornbill taxon. Complicating the picture is that the species formerly included at least five other closely related species which have since been split. Unfortunately, before this was realised some had been crossed in the captive population, resulting in hybrids which were useless from a conservation point of view.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Hornbills 2: Malayan Black Honbill

Currently living next door to our Wrinkled Hornbill is  female Malayan Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus. A male is off show at the moment, but will hopefully join her shortly. They originate from South East Asia, which is a centre of diversity for the Bucerotiformes. Among the close relatives of hornbills are the hoopoes, kingfishers, rollers, and woodpeckers. Most of these were originally grouped together in the Coraciiformes, but these have now been split into separate orders.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Hornbills 1: Wrinkled Hornbill

Scattered around the zoo we have several pairs of various species of hornbills, the distinctive, medium-sized to large birds that are among the most recognisable of forest birds in the Old World tropics. With around 55 species currently recognised (although some of the island species in Asia may be split), the hornbills fall into two natural groups. One contains the gigantic, terrestrial-feeding ground hornbills Bucorvus and their close relatives the Trumpeter hornbills in Bycanistes, which are grouped in the Bucorvinae. The other subfamily is the Bucerotinae, which includes all the other species. Bucorvines are restricted to Africa, while the Bucerotines are found in both Africa and Asia. Sadly, we do not have any ground hornbills at Bristol, but they are reasonably common in zoos around the world.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Quest for the Wild Canary 15: Conclusion - The Fortunate Islands?

Guanche Sanctuary, La Gomera
The human history of the islands is as complex, and in many ways as tragic, as the fate of its wildlife. The exact time when people first reached the islands is not clear, but seems to have been around 800 BC. From DNA analysis of ancient remains the population seems to have been related to the Berber people of North Africa. The date of colonisation is suspiciously close to the time when Phoenicians, originally from Tyre, were establishing colonies along the North African coast, of which the most famous was the arch-rival of Rome, Carthage. The Phoenicians were great navigors, whereas the locals seem to have been inland pastoralists, and although there were numerous conflicts with the incomers eventually a mixed Berber-Punic culture emerged. Presumably at some point around this time people reached and settled the islands, which are around 100km from the mainland at the closest point.