Ground Hornbills are large, conspicuous, turkey-sized birds with black plumage and very characteristic red facial skin. The Southern Ground Hornbill is a long-lived bird, and is the largest co-operative breeding bird in the world (and as such, is of great interest to science and scientists). They live in groups of 2 to 12 individuals that occupy and vigorously defend large territories of up to 100 square kilometers. Groups can either consist of a single breeding pair or a large group with a dominant breeding pair and helpers of various ages. Ground Hornbills spend most of their time searching slowly along the ground for food. They are predominantly carnivorous, feeding on a large range of insects, reptiles, amphibians and small to medium sized mammals.
Second hatched chicks, which die of starvation, are harvested from wild nests in the Kruger National Park, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga. The chicks are hand reared at Mabula Game Reserve. Chicks are reared in silence, wearing disguises, to prevent habituation. Once the chicks fledge, at 86 days, they are released to augment wild groups without a female or insufficient male helpers, so as to halt the decline of Southern Ground Hornbills in South Africa by 2015 and increase the population by 2020.