Skip to Main Content
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Global population

  • Not quantified (BirdLife International 2012, 2016)
    • Widespread but occurs at low population density

Regional populations (from Spear et al. 2005 unless otherwise noted)

  • South Africa
    • c. 1,500-2,000 individuals (from Kemp 2000)
      • Range shrinking within the country
      • Numbers declining
    • Limpopo Province, excluding Kruger
      • c. 60 individuals, one estimate (Engelbrecht et al. 2007)

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Vulnerable (2016 assessment) (Birdlife International 2016)
    • Widespread and fairly common
    • Estimates of rapid population decline in South Africa
      • Linked to habitat destruction and persecution
        • An ~75% population decline expected over the next 75 years (3 generations)
    • Declines likely in other regions
    • High probability of continued threat into the future

CITES Status

  • Not listed (UNEP 2019)

Threats to Survival

Habitat loss, degradation, and transformation

  • Main causes of population declines in South Africa (Spear et al. 2005)
  • Habitat loss
    • Conversion of savanna to agricultural habitat (Kemp 1995; Trail 2007)
    • Industrialization and expansion of human settlements eliminates suitable habitat (Spear et al. 2005)
    • Fire (BirdLife International 2012)
  • Habitat degradation and transformation
    • Overgrazing by livestock alters habitat
      • Leads to encroachment of bushland and forests (Spear et al. 2005)
      • Exacerbates erosion in suitable grasslands in Kenya (BirdLife International 2012)

Killed by humans

  • Intentional and accidental poisoning (from Brooke 1984; Witteveen et al. 2013 unless otherwise noted)
    • Consume small poisoned carcasses and poisoned grain baits
  • Targeted hunting (from Spear et al. 2005 unless otherwise noted)
    • Shot by homeowners
      • Birds tend to fly into windows on seeing their reflection and interpreting it as a territorial intruder
    • Sport hunting and take for use in traditional medicine
      • Not considered major threats (Trail 2007)
      • Likely opportunistic take rather than direct targeting of the species (Bruyns et al. 2013)

International trade (from Trail 2007)

  • Lack of sufficient tracking data
    • Not listed under CITES
  • United States imports March 1999-March 2006
    • <16 declarations for Bucorvus spp (a declaration may include more than one individual or portions of individuals)
      • Included a total of 37 live birds
        • Most were likely Southern Ground Hornbills (B. leadbeateri), based on exporting country records
      • Tanzania was the source country of most Southern Ground Hornbill imports

Slow reproductive rates worsen the impact of these threats (BirdLife International 2012)

Management Actions

Populations within protected areas

  • South Africa
    • Present in numerous protected areas (from Brooke 1984)
      • Kruger National Park, Cathedral Peak, Coleford Forest Reserves, the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Complex, the Itala, Mkuzi, Ndumu, Oribi Gorge, and Stainbank and Umtamvuna Reserves

Conservation programs

  • Reintroduction program, South Africa
    • Collect, rear, and release 2nd egg chicks (Kemp et al. 2007; Spear et al. 2005)
      • 2nd chicks left in the wild would not likely survive; individuals are raised in managed care and released
      • Mabula Project has experienced some success with reintroduced individuals reproducing in the wild (BirdLife International 2012)
  • Artificial nest provisioning  (BirdLife International 2012; Spear et al. 2005)
  • Supplemental feeding (BirdLife International 2012)

Needed actions (BirdLife International 2012)

  • Conduct population surveys and establish monitoring programs
    • Needed to assess population trends
  • Implement public awareness campaigns to prevent persecution
  • Identify and protect key strongholds of the species
    • Needed to prevent further habitat degradation
  • Continue to research the effectiveness of artificial nest provisioning

Page Citations

BirdLife International (2012)
Brooke 1(984)
Bruyns et al. (2013)
Engelbrecht et al. (2007)
Kemp (1995)
Kemp (2000)
Kemp et al. (2007)
Spear et al. (2005)
Trail (2007)
Witteveen et al. (2013)

SDZWA Library Links