Cape of Good Hope & Madagascar


Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex

Also known as the Whalehead or Abu Markub (“Father of Shoes” in Arabic), this unique huge bird is specialized for seizing large muscular fishes such as lungfish, bichers, and walking catfish and hauling them out of their muddy habitats. It is thus dependent on vast marshes full of papyrus and other aquatic plants. The drainage of wetlands is a major threat to this naturally uncommon bird. It is thought there are no more than 8,000, distributed from the Sudan to Zambia. The first breedings outside of Africa did not take place until the last decade.

Fischer’s turaco

Fischer’s turaco, Tauraco fischeri

One of a number of rather similar looking mostly green turacos that have black facial markings, this species is distinguished by the broad rose-red margin to its crest. Found only in coastal forests, from Somalia to Tanzania, as well as Zanzibar, it was not bred in captivity until the 1990s. It is very rare in US zoos, but commonly displayed in Europe. Captive turacos easily live more than 20 years.

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Great blue turaco

Great blue turaco, Corythaeola cristata

Although it is the most widely distributed of all of the 23 species of turacos, with a broad range in the forests of West and Central Africa, the Great blue turaco was very rare in zoos until the 1990s. In recent years, it has been bred repeatedly at several collections. This is one of several species of turacos that does not have the bright red wing feathers otherwise typical of this family.

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White-crested turaco

White-crested turaco, Tauraco leucolophus

Turacos are an entirely African family. Traditionally considered distant relatives of cuckoos, it has been proposed these fruit and bud-eating birds may be more closely related to owls. Found almost coast to coast across Africa, in a narrow ribbon of forest habitat, this species is popular in zoos and private collections because of its “Groucho Marx eyebrows” contrasting with its unique white head. Many have hatched since the first captive breedings in the 1970s.

Rock hyrax

Rock hyrax, Procavia capensis

Reminding some people of guinea pigs, or annoyed teddy bears, these ten pound mammals are considered by zoologists to be related to the ancestors of elephants and manatees. The skull displays similarities to these animals and this is also supported by DNA research. Found in many parts of Africa, as well as Arabia and the Middle East, they live in cliffs, kopjes, and other rocky areas, in groups of up to 80, led by a dominant male.

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Black-footed penguin

Black-footed penguin, Spheniscus demersus

Living on both coasts of South Africa, as well as Namibia, this engaging bird was encountered by Vasco da Gama and his crew, as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, becoming the first penguin known to Europeans. Also known as the African or Jackass penguin, this is the first penguin bred in zoos, in London in 1907, as well the first in the US, at the Bronx Zoo in 1915. Almost all of the more than 2,000 kept world-wide are captive-bred; more than 700 live in North America. With only 50,000 in the wild, this is an important resource.

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