Rare shoebill returns to Jurong Bird Park

Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.
Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which also gives them their iconic appearance.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The rare shoebill bird has made its return to Jurong Bird Park for its Wetlands exhibit.

An 11-year-old male and a 17-year-old female were flown in from Qatar last month.

The pair's introduction makes the Jurong Bird Park the only zoological institution in South-east Asia where the species can be seen.

The park first displayed shoebills in 1995, with its last specimen dying in 2015.

Though there are only two reported cases of successful breeding under human care, the Jurong Bird Park hopes to breed the pair and better understand the biology of the species.

The shoebill - whose scientific name is Balaeniceps rex - has a lifespan of up to 35 years in the wild, where it feeds on fish, amphibians, snakes, rodents, and even baby crocodiles.

Native to tropical East Africa, where they are threatened by a loss of their natural habitat as well as illegal wildlife trade, shoebills are classified as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of threatened species.

There are between 5,000 and 8,000 shoebills in the wild, and 30 currently under human care.

Other birds found in the Jurong Bird Park Wetlands exhibit include the critically endangered northern bald ibis as well as the roseate spoonbill and hammerkop.