Three more captive-bred Oriental Pied Hornbills were released into the wild on Wednesday, in a bid by the Jurong Bird Park to diversify the giant bird's genetic pool. "Increasing (the genetic pool)...is important to the conservation of the species because it allows for a healthier population of these birds. With more genetic diversity, the species is less susceptible to diseases," said Dr Minerva Bongco-Nuqui, avian curator at the Bird Park.
The birds had been fed whole fruit weeks prior to their release onto Pulau Ubin, to acclimatise them. They were then given a thorough health check on Monday, and measured for research purposes.
Since 2009, the Bird Park has released nine birds from its collection onto Pulau Ubin and the mainland. There are today about 100 hornbills here, up from an estimated 20 in 2004. The species - once common here - had vanished with urbanisation in the 1920s, but returned in the mid-1990s.
With its distinctive giant yellow beak and lithe black-white body, the hornbill has become a prized sighting here on Pulau Ubin, and on mainland areas such as Changi Village, Bukit Timah and Tanglin. The Singapore Hornbill Project, a joint effort by the National Parks Board, Wildlife Reserves Singapore and universities to study the bird and help it thrive, began in 2004.