[This was written by Fran Siebrits and published online by Wild Magazine http://www.wildcard.co.za, 2012]

After disappearing form the area for over half a century, the red-billed oxpecker has been introduced into Mokala National Park
National Park is “Where Endangered Species Roam…”, according to the
SANParks website. It is therefore fitting that the red-billed oxpecker, Buphagus erythrorhynchus,
has been reintroduced into an area where it was once naturally
abundant. Although not currently endangered, numbers have declined in
areas where farmers use toxic pesticides. Due to the use of cattle
treatments and dips, red-billed oxpeckers disappeared altogether in the
greater Kimberley area about 60 years ago.
Because of the importance of the reintroduction, other conservation
bodies became involved and were pivotal in the process. The capture of
the 21 red-billed oxpeckers was carried out in Limpopo by the Endangered
Wildlife Trust (EWT). Thereafter, the non-profit voluntary organisation
Bateleurs transported them to Mokala, where they were released into a
cage at Stofdam on 22 September 2012.

The red-billed oxpeckers were released from the cage a few days
later, on 30 September 2012, once they had adjusted to the new
environment. The birds have already been spotted on kudu and warthog in
the park, a sure sign they have successfully settled into their new

As their main food source is ticks, red-billed oxpeckers clean the
wounds of other animals. They also remove rotting flesh, harmful insects
and control the populations of external parasites.

Deon Joubert, Mokala Park Manager, explained that the red-billed
oxpeckers are beneficial to livestock and “they will contribute to
protecting the disease free buffalo in Mokala National Park from
sickness, reduce the external parasite numbers on animals in
neighbouring farms and help get the biodiversity back to the way it was

If you are planning a visit to Mokala, which is only 80km from
Kimberley, put the red-billed oxpecker on your check list. Report any
sighting you see and help SANParks in the monitoring of these birds.

Bateleurs link: http://thebateleurs.blogspot.com/