Our Neighborhood's Biodiversity Map

* Please click the continent to see the endangered species of our neighborhood.
Africa
Arkive species - Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) * To See the original image, please click the image
Shared by : Nancy Saili (Zambia)
Region : Zambia
Status : Vulnerable
Introduction
The Bangweulu Shoebill Zambia in all its splendor and beauty is one of the most fantastic and unexpected places to visit in Africa. It has endlessly absorbing and exciting wildlife and nature to see. A splash of orange in the sunshine, if you like to hear the birds sing in the morning chances are you will and if you are looking to just relax on the beach chances are you will find our golden sunny lit beaches the perfect resting place too. Dare to venture into the wild and see what our beautiful Zambia has to offer. Waterfalls fed by rushing rivers, nature rich national parks and beautiful lakes all locked up into one country. As if it were not enough Zambia is also home to one Africa's rarest birds.

The Balaeniceps Rex or simply the shoebill stork is a very beautiful large bird that stands up to 1.5 meters tall with a wingspan of about 2.5 meters. Famously known for its intimidating yellowish bill which is longer in males than females is blue-grey in color with a darker grey head. Amazingly the shoebill can live to as far as 36 years in the wild. The shoebill is however more of a pelican than a stork. The Balaeniceps Rex whose name simply means 'king whale-head,' is only found in the Bangweulu wetlands south east of lake Bangweulu which is located in the Northern part of Zambia. Other sites include some parts of Uganda and possibly the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Bangweulu whose name means 'where the water meets the sky' are surrounded by a grassy plain and usually flooded in the rainy season. The seasonally flooded short grass provides a good foraging site while the permanent deep wetlands act as nesting ground. The shoebill feeds on fish. The swamps provide poorly oxygenated water which causes fish to surface for air increasing the likelihood of capture for the bird. The shoebill strikes with much speed when fish come to the surface. In most instances the shoebill can spend hours standing motionless on a floating mat of vegetation until a fish swims within reach. Bird watching in Bangweulu is a top notch because of the many different species that are difficult to find in other parts of the world. The Bangweulu is also home to the famous black lechwe. The shoebill mostly prefers the dense papyrus swamps and reeds, which makes observation of this bird quite difficult. The best time to see the shoebill in all its fullness is between the months April and June when water levels rise. They normally perch high in palm trees and can easily fly away if disturbed. The shoebill is generally a shy bird, they never move in groups and are none migratory.

Historically, global populations of shoebill have always been low. In Zambia it can be estimated between 500-1300 and declining. So in a way they have always been endangered. The local people near the Bangweulu's main source of livelihood include fishing and hunting. This poses a threat to the bird as most chicks are stolen from nests and traded illegally. The other major threat is late fires that cause nests to be burnt with the chicks inside who sadly enough are not yet matured to fly away. This causes breeding failure.

Shoebills may not be of much importance to the ecosystem as their only function is that they act as predators in the swamps and marshes where they. However, that should not be reason to wipe them out of the face of the earth. They a great tourist attraction and as long as they are part of our natural environment care should be taken to ensure that they are kept at their best. I mean, I would want to see a shoebill live to 36 years, wouldn't you? And if you want to really see this bird, make a trip to Zambia in April to June. The shoebill won't be the only amazing thing you see.

Original Source of picture :
nationalgeographic.com
http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/files/2012/12/09-Bwalya-556x700.jpg

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