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Creature Feature: Kori Bustard
By Megan VanGundy, Relief Keeper and Veterinary Technician
What do the world’s heaviest flighted bird and a fly fisherman have in common? Keep reading to find out!
As part of our recent Jamaa Kwa Africa expansion, two kori bustards now call the Blank Park Zoo home.
Kori bustards are terrestrial, omnivorous birds that inhabit the grasslands and lightly wooded savannas of southern and eastern Africa. They are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP), just like the endangered black rhino. This captive breeding program aims to maintain populations that are genetically and demographically self-sustaining without relying on imports from the wild. In captivity, breeding is currently limited to a few prolific individuals. More understanding of their natural behavior is needed to increase individuals and genetic diversity in AZA-accredited zoos.
Historically, aside from the golden pheasant tail, kori bustard feathers seem to be the most often used natural-colored feather in Classic Atlantic Fly wings, a type of fly lure. The feather used most is generally from the wings and back of the bird.
Molted kori bustard feathers
Fly fisherman were unintentionally creating a “black market” for kori bustard feathers, and thus poaching of the bird was increasing. To decrease the demand for kori bustard feathers and to increase conservation awareness, the “Kori Bustard Feather Project” was created in 2005. Sara Hallager, Kori Bustard SSP coordinator, and John McLain, an avid fly fisherman, came together to create a unique partnership, both with the future of the kori bustard in mind.
Here’s how the project works: AZA accredited-zoos that house kori bustards are asked to collect the naturally molted (shedded) feathers of the birds. These feathers are sent to John McLain at Feathersmc.com. John then asks fly fishermen to join “Friends of the Kori Bustard SSP”, a nonprofit organization out of Zoo Atlanta that allows the project to be tax deductible. Membership is free, but donations are strongly encouraged. John then sends the kori feathers out to members worldwide so they can create lures from these naturally molted feathers. Funds from this project have been used to support several research projects focusing on kori bustard reproduction.
Lure using kori bustard feathers
The Kori Bustard Feather Project is a simple effort making a big impact on this magnificent bird. At Blank Park Zoo, we have already sent one full box of feathers to the project and are collecting more feathers as the birds settle into their new exhibit. Stop by the newly renovated Jamaa Kwa Africa today and check out Mosi and Manna – our two kori bustards!