|Translocation of Red-billed Oxpeckers|
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|Translocation of Red-billed Oxpeckers|
MISSION 24 of 2012
Name of Mission: Translocation of Red-billed Oxpeckers
Objective of the Flight:
To transfer Red-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus erythrorhynchus from the Mokopane Breeding Centre of the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) in Limpopo to the Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape.
“We took off from Lanseria Airport on the morning of the 21st September at 05h10, and flew to Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus), arriving at the airport there at 06h00.
After landing I met Andre Botha and Leigh Combrink, loaded the 21 Oxpeckers, and departed on schedule at 06h30 on a direct flight to the Mokala National Park, just southwest of Kimberly in the Northern Cape.
After landing at Mokala the birds were loaded into a vehicle for the short drive to the aviary into which they were released. The aviary was to be their new home for the next two weeks, before their release into the park.
After takeoff from Mokala it was a short hop to Kimberley for fuel, and then back to Lanseria.
The mission was a resounding success, with the Oxpeckers digging into their food within five minutes of being released, and no birds were lost en route.”
“The Birds of Prey Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust approached The Bateleurs during the first week of September 2012 to assist with the transfer of Red-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus erythrorhynchus from the Mokopane Breeding Centre of the NZG to the Mokala National Park in the Northern Cape. This translocation forms part of the work of Operation Oxpecker, a project of the EWT which aims to re-establish populations of this species within its historical range in South Africa, and was the latest in a number of such translocations that have taken place since the late 1990’s.
The birds involved in this translocation were captured on the farm Goedgedacht near Steenbokpan in Limpopo, after a request for assistance was received from Mr Piet Venter who was concerned that the ox-peckers were causing damage to his herd of cattle, due to the aggravation of wounds towards the end of the dry season. The capture was conducted from the 27th to the 31st of August 2012 and the birds were transported to the Mokopane Breeding Centre of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG). The NZG has the necessary facilities to keep the birds until permits for the translocation could be obtained, plus we needed the results of gender assessments of blood samples collected from the birds during capture.
Applications for permits for the translocation were lodged with LEDET and Northern Cape Nature Conservation and an application for support from The Bateleurs was submitted on the 3rd of September 2012. Permits were issued within a few days and confirmation of support from The Bateleurs was received about a week after the application was submitted.
Preparatory arrangements between EWT, SANParks, NZG and The Bateleurs were finalised in the days preceding the translocation, and it was agreed that the birds would be collected from the Mokopane Airfield shortly after first light in the morning of the 21st of September 2012. The 21 birds were re-captured in their enclosure and transferred to smaller transport cages at 04h30, after which they were driven to the airfield to await the arrival of the aircraft. Beechcraft Baron 58, registration ZS-JPF, piloted by Noel McCullough landed shortly before 06h00 and, after brief introductions and discussions, the birds were loaded and secured in the aircraft before takeoff.
We were airborne by 06h30 and headed for the Mokala National Park via Klerksdorp, the Bloemhof Dam and Kimberley, encountering some rain and turbulence along the way. A stiff cross-wind was blowing at Mokala but Noel managed to land without any problem shortly after 08h35. We were welcomed at the airfield by Park Warden Deon Joubert and a contingent of representatives from both the printed media, radio and television news who accompanied us to the temporary enclosure where the birds will be kept until their release into the Park on the 4th of October, after an acclimatisation period of almost two weeks.
The drive to the enclosure took approximately 40 minutes and we immediately opened the cages to release the birds into their temporary home. All the birds left the cages in good condition and several of them were observed feeding on the food already in place for them within minutes of being released. The media group was guided away from the enclosure after they had taken photographs, and interviews were conducted with EWT and SANParks staff as well as with the pilot from The Bateleurs.
We were returned to the Mokala Airfield by the Park Warden and took off from there at approximately 11h00 for the Kimberley Airport where we re-fuelled before heading to Lanseria. The flight from Kimberley to Lanseria was concluded at approximately 13h45 and the mission was successfully concluded.
The EWT Birds of Prey Programme (BoPP) and Operation Oxpecker would like to extend our appreciation to The Bateleurs for their support which made the translocation such a success. Particular appreciation is due to pilot Noel McCullough for his punctual, friendly and enthusiastic participation during the translocation. The support provided by The Bateleurs negated the need to transport the Oxpeckers by road from Mokpane to Mokala. This would have required a road-trip of at least 9.5 hours at night on roads of poor quality with a lot of roadworks, which would very likely have led to the loss of a number of birds due to excessive stress. Not a single bird succumbed during the translocation and all birds are reported to be in excellent condition and adjusting well to their new enclosure and environment at Mokala National Park.
Further captures of Oxpeckers to translocate to Mokala to augment the founder population are planned for 2013 and we look forward to working with The Bateleurs, again, with these translocations.
Thanks again to The Bateleurs for your valuable support.”
The objective to translocate birds from Mokopane to Mokala National Park was an unequivocal success.