Two Iconic Tennessee Entities Partner to Save a Species

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Two Iconic Tennessee Entities Partner to Save a Species

What pairs well with Jack Daniel’s? Here at Nashville Zoo, our rhinoceros hornbills do!

Nashville Zoo and Jack Daniel’s have partnered to give our nesting rhinoceros hornbills a temporary home by donating unused whiskey barrels. The partnership started back in 2008.

Rhinoceros hornbills are fairly large birds that need large hollow spaces to lay their eggs and care for their young.

“Rhino Hornbills are cavity nesters,” said Joe deGraauw, Nashville Zoo Avian Curator. “They seek out large trees with hollowed out interiors whether created by a large woodpecker or acts of nature that cause the trunk of the tree to open up.”

Because of this, empty Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels prove to be the perfect home away from home during chick season.

Nashville Zoo received 11 unused whiskey barrels this year. The avian staff modify the barrels for the hornbills by creating an entrance hole, which is roughly the size and shape of a football, as well as added a small access door in case they need to intervene and pull the chick for safety reasons.

The barrels at the Zoo are also fitted with an infrared camera, so as to monitor the chick and mother’s progress. Surplus barrels may be offered to other zoos across the country to upstart their breeding programs.

“Our breeding efforts are important because we are only one of two zoos that are producing offspring,” deGraauw said. “Because of this we have been able to increase the captive population in the US by 30%.  Because of our success, we have been trading hornbills with European zoos to increase the genetics on both continents.”

The rhinoceros hornbill is classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN and faces many challenges in the wild. Along with the global issue of deforestation resulting in a loss of habitat, these birds are hunted as food, and ornaments are made out of their casques and feathers. While the species is not yet considered endangered, it has been decreasing in number.

Recently Nashville Zoo welcomed its 16th and 17th rhinoceros hornbill chicks and is home to eight rhinoceros hornbills. The Zoo has produced 1-2 chicks every year since 2008, resulting in more than 18% of the hornbills in the SSP being hatched from the Nashville Zoo.

Guests can see the rhinoceros hornbill chicks in action on the live webcam here.

Posted by Nashville Zoo at 10:43 AM