PhD candidate in the School of Life Sciences at UKZN, Mr Moses Chibesa, was recently featured in a Bird Matters video interview concerning his presentation at this year’s BirdLife South Africa’s Flock Conference in the Kruger National Park.
Chibesa’s presentation was about research on the home range and habitat use of the Trumpeter Hornbill (Bycanistes bucinator) in an urban-forest mosaic in Eshowe. Trumpeter Hornbills, the largest obligate frugivores in South Africa, are a common sighting in their natural environment and the urban environments where they are found. They have a distinctive loud nasal wailing call and are easily recognised by their black and white plumage. Their slightly decurved bill and casque are black. Males are larger than females with larger bills and higher casques.
The birds are highly dependent on the forest, especially for their fruit diet and ultimately play an important role in seed dispersal. However, the indigenous forest is increasingly being threatened by human population growth and the resulting deforestation.
Although the Trumpeter Hornbill is classified as of Least Concern (LC) due to its population not appearing to be declining, increased human development threatens its habitat and is forcing it to adapt to use of both residential and indigenous forest habitats.
‘As urbanisation expands and more natural land is being converted for anthropogenic structures and agriculture, understanding how species adapt and survive in the resultant fragmented habitats is important for their conservation,’ said Chibesa.
‘Humans are so good at taking things out of nature, but when it comes to taking care of nature, very few individuals are committed.’
Chibesa highlighted the need for increased awareness and sensitisation to the issues facing these species and the importance of the birds to humans. He also emphasised the importance of government policies in guiding conservation and management practices for species using urban environments, with political will being essential for research and non-governmental efforts to be implemented.
He emphasised the importance of timely and inclusive policy implementation based on sound scientific and indigenous knowledge in mitigating effects of human-induced climate change, loss of indigenous forests, illegal wildlife trade and similar challenges to avifauna and other wildlife.
‘I’m very optimistic,’ said Chibesa. ‘If you want change to happen, you need to be optimistic. Whether it happens now or in 200 years, if you achieve change you have reached your objective, and that’s what drives me every day.’