Keepers work round the clock at Fife Zoo to save hornbill Zazu

Zazu's beak is made of keratin and has finally started to repair itself.  (Pic: Fife Zoo)Zazu's beak is made of keratin and has finally started to repair itself.  (Pic: Fife Zoo)
Zazu's beak is made of keratin and has finally started to repair itself. (Pic: Fife Zoo)
Zoo keepers at Fife Zoo have been working around the clock to save the life of a rare Von der Decken hornbill.

The bird, affectionately named Zazu, arrived at the zoo last year but has spent the last six months receiving specialist treatment.

The hornbill unfortunately broke both his upper and then lower beak in separate accidents, making him unable to feed himself, relying on round the clock care from zoo keepers to feed him and keep him hydrated.

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Keepers have had to hand feed Zazu his specialist diet of fruit and small insects including cockroaches. Zazu is nearing the end of his rehabilitation and his beak has somewhat repaired itself, allowing the keepers the chance to finally become more hands off in his day-to-day management.

The hornbill’s beak is made from keratin, which is the same as human fingernails and a rhinoceros’ horn.

Zazu is part of a European wide breeding programme. He is currently finishing his rehabilitation and it is hoped that he will still be able to mate upon hte arrival of a suitable companion at the zoo later this year. The arrival of his female companion has been delayed by both Avian Influenza and BREXIT restrictions in recent months.

It is hoped that if a suitable mate can be found for Zazu then the zoo will be able to contribute to global captive breeding efforts to safeguard the species from extinction in the wild.

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Von der Decken Hornbills are usually found in dry regions of Eastern Africa. Males like Zazu are easily identifiable by their large red bills, whilst females have black bills.

Mike Knight, Fife Zoo director, said: “Zazu is an incredibly intelligent bird, but without the intervention of our specialist zoo keeper team and veterinary professionals, the outlook would have been bleak for him. Thankfully he responded well to hand feeding, with the zoo keepers initially giving him food via a pair of feeding tongs.

"As he began to recover, Zazu developed a new strategy for feeding himself and he became able to stab food with his beak and flick it in the air before catching and swallowing it. He’s now in great condition and we hope to have a breeding companion for him at the zoo by the end of the year so that he can contribute to European wide efforts to save his species from extinction.”