The Private Life of Hornbills

Here at The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo we have a pair of Wrinkled Hornbills (Aceros corrugatus), Bayu (Bye-you) and Ayu (Aye-you). Bayu, which means “the wind” in Indonesian, is our 16 year old male and Ayu, meaning “beautiful,” is our 13 year old female. You can tell them apart based on their size and coloration; males are larger and have bright yellow and red heads and beaks while the females are smaller and darker in color.

If you visited our Zoo this summer, it might have looked like there was only one bird in the Wrinkled Hornbill exhibit. But fear not; our female, Ayu, had a very busy summer sealing herself into her nest box. During nesting season, the female will seal herself inside of the nest box using wood shavings, sticky food, and feces. We made sure that the pair was provided with all the things that they need to be successful, such as adding foods like figs and boiled sweet potatoes to their diets to help them seal up the opening. Ayu worked on and off sealing the nest box for a couple of days before sealing herself in fully. She does not leave the nest box until the nesting process is over, but she leaves a very small opening so that Bayu can feed her.

The last time that Ayu was seen outside of the nest box was July 16th. Once inside and sealed, females can lay between one to three eggs and will incubate them for about 28 days until they hatch. They then remain inside the nest box with the chicks until they are strong enough to emerge. This could take another 60 to 80 days! That means females stay inside their nest box for a total of around 90 days and throughout all this time the male is focused on feeding everyone in the nest box and protecting them from predators.

On August 24th, a keeper heard a small vocalization that could have been a chick. At that point, Ayu had been in the nest box for 39 days. It was confirmed in the following days that there was a chick that had hatched!  We helped determine that a chick had hatched based on what foods Bayu was picking to feed Ayu. Chicks are usually fed higher protein items when they are young and when Bayu immediately started feeding Ayu mealworms and crickets we were pretty confident that we had a hornbill chick.

Based on our timeline, we hoped that Ayu and the chick would break out of the nest box before the end of the season. Wrinkled Hornbills are native to Indonesia, and are very sensitive to the cold Indiana temperatures. As the temperatures started dropping, we began to worry about Bayu. Since he had to stay outside to feed Ayu, he was especially susceptible to the weather. After conferring with vet staff and keepers, it was finally decided to move the nest box (with the chick and mom still sealed tightly inside) indoors for the winter. It was quite the process, but our team was able to safely relocate the heavy box inside so that the hornbills could be warm for the winter and emerge from the nest box when they were ready.

The 90 day mark came and went and still the chick and its mother did not emerge. Finally, on the 123rd day of the female’s nesting process, our animal care team decided to break the seal and see if the birds would break out. Once that seal was broken, Ayu and the chick emerged within minutes! At this point, the chick was 84 days old. After the neonatal physical a few days later, it was determined that the chick was a female, and was given the name Nuri, which means “colorful bird.”

Though it was a long and tedious process to produce a single chick, it was well worth it. In fact, our chick Nuri was one of only two Wrinkled Hornbill chicks to successfully hatch this year in any zoo! This represents a huge achievement for their species, whose population is suffering in the wild. Because of our animal care team’s hard work, we are excited that we have made steps toward saving this endangered bird.

Look at those eyelashes!

 

Written by: Tiffany Jones and Brianna Crane: Zoo Keepers, Indonesian Rain Forest

Zoo Welcomes New “Little” Girl

On the morning of Sunday, August 6th, our giraffe keepers walked into the barn to find a big surprise. Zahra, our expectant mother giraffe, was in labor!

When keepers arrived for their morning shift at 7 AM, Zahra had already gone into active labor, and after a few more hours of pushing, we welcomed a beautiful new female giraffe calf into our zoo family at 9:28 AM! Giraffes give birth standing up, so the baby had a long way to the ground. As the largest living land animal, it’s no surprise that giraffes give birth to large babies- and though our new calf is on the smaller side by giraffe standards, she still weighed 172 pounds and was over 6’1″ tall at birth- that’s one big newborn! She’s growing quickly too- at a week and a half old, keepers estimate her to be 6’3″ now, and is gaining weight right on pace.

Just minutes after she was born.

Just thirty minutes after birth, the new calf learned to stand, and was aptly given the name Kita, which means “to stand firm” in Swahili. Calves must learn to stand quickly so that they can immediately begin nursing, which is what Kita did shortly after standing.

The next day, it was time for Kita’s neonatal exam. At first, she vocalized at the vet staff and ran away! They were finally able to hold her so that the vet could perform a thorough exam, take some blood samples, and make sure she was healthy. “I think she was a little mad at us for a day or two,” said giraffe keeper Aimee after the exam, “but she is now back to readily giving kisses!” None of the tests revealed any concerns, and Kita is a very healthy little girl.

As for the rest of our giraffes- they are simply fascinated with the newest addition to their family. The younger girls, Mystic, Luna, and Faye, rush over to check on Kita as soon as they come inside the barn after being out in their exhibit all day, and her dad and grandparents love interacting with her. She can touch and smell the other giraffes next to her, but does not share a space with them quite yet. As they all get used to each other, she will be introduced to the other giraffes in a shared space, starting with her Grandma Zuri. She already has formed a strong bond with Grandma, who likes to stick close by and watch over Zahra and the new baby.

Though Mom lets her little one have fun, she is also extremely protective of her. Kita is Zahra’s second calf with Ezeji, and keepers say that she seems more prepared this time around. Zahra is very wary of new visitors in the giraffe barn, and Kita takes her cues on what to do from Mom.

Kisses from Mom!

Now over a week old, Kita’s personality is beginning to shine through. She is very curious, and is beginning to show a feisty streak! Keepers say she has started to demonstrate a “sassy personality, and is very similar to how her mother was at that age.” Aimee also reports that though she still naps a lot, like most babies, she often “fights sleepiness because there is so much cool stuff going on in the giraffe barn! Right now, her favorite game is running circles around Mom.” As Kita grows and begins to interact more with the other giraffes, her personality will continue to develop, though her keepers say that she is already more feisty than her brother Kiango was!

Kita also loves her keepers already- she interacts with them regularly and likes to watch them work. They discovered that she enjoys their auto waterers, and loves to splash the water up in the air!

In addition to adding more fun and cuteness to our giraffe herd, this new baby also serves as an ambassador for the declining giraffe populations in the wild. Giraffes are considered to be a “vulnerable” species due to habitat loss and human population growth and illegal hunting. Once widespread across southern and eastern Africa, new population surveys estimate an overall 36 to 40 percent decline in the giraffe population. Our partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation helps to support giraffe research and implement plans to save them. You can help by visiting our giraffe platform and by supporting the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

Despite being the size of a full-grown human, Kita acts just like any other baby would, and spends her days napping, playing with mom, and exploring her new world. Although it will be a few weeks before Kita is able to be introduced to the public, we can’t wait for you all to meet her!

Here she is on August 17th looking adorable as ever!