Monday, 9 December 2013

Montecasino Bird Gardens boosts conservation with a first for South Africa and Gauteng


Ring-tailed lemur

Bearing fruit to its ongoing conservation efforts, the Montecasino Bird Gardens has over the past few months successfully hand-reared three Mexican Beaded Lizard hatchlings (which is a first for South Africa), three Southern Ground Hornbill chicks and a baby Ring-tailed Lemur, all of which are endangered species. The hatching of a baby Eastern White Pelican adds to the growing number of success stories for the Bird Gardens breeding programme.

To contribute to the continued presence of the Mexican Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum horridum) in South Africa three eggs, laid in the Gardens, were collected for artificial incubation. It was an agonizing 179 days of waiting, but on 31 August the first of the three eggs began hatching. Over a period of three days, all the neonates, weighing between 33 and 44 grams and measuring roughly 16cm, made their appearance.

It’s a process, but one to which we are certainly committed,” says Property Manager of Montecasino, Deidre Jameson. “The Mexican Beaded Lizard has been listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1975. The successful breeding of our three hatchlings was a first for South Africa and an achievement of which we are very proud.”

Another first for the Gardens and for Gauteng was the successful rearing of Penelope, the Eastern White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus). Penelope hatched under her mom and at four days old was pinioned, transpondered and a blood sample was sent away for DNA sexing. At this stage, Penelope weighed a mere 233 grams, but she has grown very quickly under the watchful eye of her very loving and protective parents. Very dark in colour at first, Penelope, is now two months and 26 days old and is becoming lighter in colour and losing her juvenile feathers.

Baby pelican
The first Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) chick of 2013 has also hatched. There are only 1500 Southern Ground Hornbills in Southern Africa and only 416 breeding pairs. The species is extremely threatened and within South Africa they have been considered endangered due to various threats, including secondary or accidental poisoning, electrocution, live trade, and traditional uses.

Soon these birds will be listed as ‘critically endangered’ in South Africa if extreme action is not taken, which is why, at the Montecasino Bird Gardens, we are proud to be part of the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project. The project protects existing wild populations and aims to reintroduce Southern Ground Hornbills in to areas where they have become locally extinct and to date the Montecasino Bird Gardens has hatched and hand-reared seven chicks. After fledging, these chicks are sent to ‘bush school’ before being released into the wild,” continues Jameson.

Another exciting addition came in the form of a baby male Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) named Amby. Weighing roughly 70 grams at birth, and spending about a week being carried upside down while holding onto mom’s chest, the arrival of Amby brings the number of lemurs that can be seen at the Montecasino Bird Gardens to six – four males and two females.

Lemurs are endemic to Madagascar and some species are near extinction as deforestation on the island continues to create problems for the conservation of the biodiversity. Ring-tailed Lemurs have a gestation period of 135 days. In three years’ time Amby should be mature enough to start a family of his own.

We are very proud of the achievements of the Montecasino Bird Gardens and of the specialised care it provides to the over 1000 bird, reptile and mammal species housed at the Gardens, many of which are rare or endangered. The Montecasino Bird Gardens, like the rest of the precinct, is strongly environmental and conservation-focused and Montecasino invests heavily into the breeding, educational and rehabilitation programmes, while also being a delight for every visitor, young and old,” says Glenn Joseph, General Manager of Montecasino.

The Montecasino Bird Gardens is open to the public every day, excluding Christmas day. Through its children’s holiday programme and special events, the Bird Gardens fulfils an important role in environmental awareness and provides a tranquil and fun-filled environment for the whole family. For further information on the Montecasino Bird Gardens please visit

Issued on behalf of the Montecasino Bird Gardens by Strategic Public Relations. 

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