Iloilo town’s wildlife park breeds endangered bird

Iloilo town’s wildlife park breeds endangered bird

ILOILO CITY – A newly-bred writhed-billed hornbill, considered as the world’s second most critically endangered hornbill, has given hope to its kind when it finally flew last week while in captivity inside the Mari-it Wildlife and Conservation Park in Barangay Jayubo in Lambunao town, Iloilo.

Dr. JB Ian G. Bullo, Veterinarian 2 of the West Visayas State University-College of Agriculture and Forestry (WVSU-CAF) and assigned at the park, said that the male chick hornbill got out from the nest on December 28, 2020 and was able to flap its wings and fly on January 10.

“It took around one and half-month before we heard chirps from the newborn chick,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.

Only one pair was able to breed and only one egg was laid and hatched, he said.

The Park has 15 birds of this species also known as “dulungan” or the Visayan wrinkled hornbill.

The bird is monogamous and its mate serves as its partner for life.

The breeding period of hornbills usually starts every September. It is the male that prepares the nest.

“Losing their partner will greatly affect breeding as they will not breed with other birds that they are not compatible with. When the female starts to lay eggs, it will seal itself in a hollow tree trunk and rely on the male partner to feed her and the future chick. If the male is killed while the female is still sealed together with its chick, they may suffer and die due to hunger,” he added.

Currently, they are still observing the new chick if it is independent enough to collect its own food. While it can already fly, it still relies on its parents for food.

Bullo said usually it will take a month, after leaving the nest, that the chick can already be separated from its parents.

They plan to name the hornbill as “Bebong” after the current president of the university.

The veterinarian said that the support extended by the university, local government unit of Lambunao, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Talarak Foundation Inc., helped a lot in the successful breeding of the bird.

He recalled that on his first year at the park in 2018, a pair aborted breeding. It was suspected that the failed breeding was due to nutrition issues.

A female chick was hatched in 2019 but it died after two months. The necropsy showed the chick had an injury on its left hind limb and there were signs of gastrointestinal problems.

“We were not able to place the best ration and nest as we are still constricted by financial concerns so we have to make use of what we have. Our goal is to satisfy both the nutritional and environmental requirement, as close as possible, to the optimum condition while being economical,” he said.

He added that this time, they are fortunate to have successful breeding; the chick left its nest alive and showed no visible deformities or signs of disease.

The last successful breeding inside the center was in 2011, a female hornbill, he said.

As breeding the endangered bird is delicate, Bullo said that they need all the help they could get to ensure its success.
“We need to give the birds optimum rations and facilities not only during the breeding season but whole year-round in order for the birds to stay in the right condition to breed again. Operating expense remains the biggest hurdle of the center and help of any kind is very much welcome,” he said.

Meantime, Lambunao tourism officer Jennifer Osorio said that apart from the support from the local government unit, the quarantine period has helped a lot because their environment was not disturbed.

“Somehow our endangered species were also stressed every time there are visitors,” she said.

Since the season for breeding is over and the restrictions have relaxed a bit, Osorio said that the park is already open and visitors can view the baby hornbill.

However, health protocols such as wearing face masks, logging in and out, and stepping on a foot bath for disinfection must be observed.

Mari-it (enchanted) is the first conservation, breeding, and rescue park in Panay Island. It is situated in a 1,000-hectare lot within the 3,000-hectare campus of the WVSU-CAF in Barangay Jayubo, some 16 kilometers away from the town of Lambunao.

Apart from the Visayan writhed hornbill and endangered Visayan tarictic hornbill, the park also hosts the endangered Visayan spotted deer; critically endangered Visayan warty pig; vulnerable Visayan leopard cat, and the cloud rat, among others.

The wildlife and conservation park is being promoted as an eco-tourism site having two springs and rich flora and fauna. (PNA)

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