Prehistoric-looking bird returns to the Jurong Bird Park – illegal wildlife trade has put the species under threat

Shoebills are named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which gives them their iconic appearance. Wildlife Reserves Singapore

You’ve seen the T-Rex in action on the big screen, now check out the B-Rex in the flesh.

A pair of prehistoric-looking Shoebills (Balaeniceps rex) – a 11-year-old male and 17-year-old female – are currently calling the Jurong Bird Park home. Arriving from Qatar, both are part of the attraction’s Wetlands exhibit.

Shoebills are named for their distinctive large shoe-shaped bill – which measures over 20cm in length, and is marked by a sharp hook at the end for killing prey. They usually reach a height of 1.5m with their wing spans reaching a maximum of 2m.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The Jurong Bird Park is the only zoological institution in Southeast Asia where visitors can view the species.

Shoebills are native to tropical East Africa – where they face threats such as habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade – and have been classified as Vulnerable in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Currently,there are only 30 Shoebills under human care worldwide and an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

They are no strangers to Jurong Bird Park, having first made an appearance there in 1995. Its last specimen died three years ago in 2015.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Shoebills have life expectancy of 35 years in the wild and although their diet consists primarily of fish, they have also been known to consume amphibians, snakes, rodents, and even baby crocodiles.

Although there have been only two recorded cases of successful breeding under human care, Jurong Bird Park hopes to breed the pair to better understand the biology of the species.

Besides the Shoebills, visitors at the Wetlands exhibit can also view other wetland birds like the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill and Hammerkop.