Eight years since the red-billed oxpecker was reintroduced to Mountain Zebra National Park on the Cradock side, all indications show that the species has successfully returned to the region.
The cute little bird you normally spot feasting on the ticks and flies on wild animals has been spotted regularly in the park and on surrounding farms - even as far as Graaff-Reinet - and it all started with a small group of 40 birds introduced to the park in 2010. Previous reintroductions were made in other conservation areas like Addo Elephant National Park.
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While thriving in place like Kruger, the oxpecker was wiped out in Eastern Cape in the early 1900s because while it enjoy snacking down with a wild animal, it also like to take out the ticks on livestock. Unfortunately, livestock was dipped in toxic chemicals and the poor critters were poisoned due to their sensitivity to organophosphates found in these pesticides and other fertilisers.
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Red-billed oxpecker. (Photo: SANParks)
Today, avid birdwatchers in the park and farmers in surrounding areas have spotted their red beaks all over, and for the first time a study will be started to monitor the populations, focusing on raising awareness, as well as looking into whether a similar reintroduction can be made to the Graaf-Reinet side of the park.
Oxpeckers are important for controlling pests and keeping their animals friends itch-free, by eating almost a hundred blood-filled ticks, even 12 000 larvae, a day. They do however also crave blood and can pick at open wounds of animals, taking longer than heal.
They still play a vital role in the ecosystem, and hopefully we'll be seeing more of them in the future.
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