The Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), also known as the Thunder Bird, faces a number of escalating anthropogenic threats in southern Africa. Persecution for their window-breaking habits, accidental poisoning by incorrectly used agricultural pesticides, malicious and secondary poisoning , electrocution, trade for aviculture and traditional medicine and rituals, and the ubiquitous loss of habitat and resultant loss of suitable nest trees. This, coupled with a slow breeding rate, complex social and cooperative breeding structure, is resulting in the swift decline of this long-lived species beyond the borders of the largest formally protected areas.
The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project, has over the past two decades trialled a number of conservation techniques and is now the lead agency for the conservation of the species. No single action will not be sufficient and so the Project employs a multi-pronged, and multi-disciplinary, approach to slow and then reverse the decline that includes reintroductions using redundant second-hatched chicks into areas where the species is locally extinct; monitoring populations beyond protected areas, conservation capacity building; sound conservation biology research (genetics/artificial nests/hormone); extensive education and awareness campaigns working locally with rural schools, traditional authorities and farmer committees and nationally through the available media; threat mitigation at a territory scale through a community custodianship programme; and development of a national artificial nest programme. This culturally and ecologically important flagship species is also an excellent starting point for conversation about greater conservation issues.