Europe's first rare black hornbill chicks born in two years hatch at Hertfordshire zoo Paradise Wildlife Park

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

There's been a couple of new arrivals at Hertfordshire's Paradise Wildlife Park.

The Hertfordshire zoo is excited to announce the birth of not one but two rare black hornbill chicks, the first to hatch across Europe in the last two years. 

Black hornbills are a threatened species of hornbill native to Asia and found mainly in lowland forest habitats.

Their conservation status is currently vulnerable but their population is thought to be in decline due to high levels of deforestation.

Paradise's chicks mark a major milestone in conservation breeding as currently only 24 black hornbills are registered in the EEP (EAZA Ex-situ Programme) breeding programme across the whole of European zoos, with no chicks being born in Europe last year or this year. 

A Paradise spokesperson said: "This is the first time the Park’s breeding pair, Mulu and Darwin, have hatched babies but both are doing an amazing job."

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

Throughout the duration, Darwin acted as a great partner providing Mulu with plenty of mud, leaves and twigs to build up her nest.

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After sealing herself into the nest box, Mulu became completely reliant on Darwin for food, which he has provided in abundance.

A nest box camera picture showing female black hornbill Mulu and chicks.

A nest box camera picture showing female black hornbill Mulu and chicks. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

Thanks to the cameras the zookeeping team hid in the nest box, they were able to see that shortly after entering the nest box in February Mulu had laid four eggs. 

Two of them have now hatched.

"They both have remained attentive and have been providing the chicks with all the food they require whilst Mulu keeps them nice and safe, incubating them in the nest box," said the PWP spokesperson.

The black hornbill chicks at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

The black hornbill chicks at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

The bird team at Paradise has worked hard to create a favourable breeding environment, from nest box building to using a misting system to replicate a humid climate as black hornbills will naturally nest after the wet season.

The bird team is happy with the progress and they will continue to monitor the chicks.

A spokesperson said: "If the chicks successfully make it past early stages towards fledging, we expect to see them break out of the nest box with mum Mulu around mid to late May 2022.

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

Male black hornbill Darwin at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park

"These two chicks will add to the genetic diversity and population of this vital breeding programme and create an insurance policy for black hornbills in the wild.

"With little research known about the current population size of black hornbills in the wild, it is important to keep captive populations healthy."

Paradise Wildlife Park in White Stubbs Lane is to be renamed Hertfordshire Zoo on its 40th anniversary on April 1, 2024.

The entrance to World of Animals at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

The entrance to World of Animals at Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Paradise Wildlife Park