Jurong Bird Park is the only place in Southeast Asia where you can view the prehistoric-looking Shoebill

The Shoebill. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

There’s a new bird in town, and it’s the Shoebill — a creature native to the swamps of tropical East Africa, where it faces threats like habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. Only 30 Shoebills exist under human care across the globe, although it’s estimated there are about 5,000 to 8,000 in the wild.

Named for their large shoe-shaped bill, which can measure over 20cm in length with a sharp hook at the end for killing prey, these stork-like birds are no wimps on the animal food chain. They apparently eat turtles, fish, and even young crocodiles, garnering a reputation for being one of the more terrifying birds to walk the planet.

Just look at that death stare. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

With the arrival of a male and female pair from Qatar, the Shoebills — which are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species — are now housed at Jurong Bird Park, making it the only zoological institution in Southeast Asia where visitors can see the prehistoric-looking species.

They’ll be residing at the Wetlands exhibit, alongside other birds like the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and Hammerkop.

Shoebills prowling around their exhibit at Jurong Bird Park. Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The park was first home to Shoebills in 1995, but the last remaining creature passed away in 2015. And with only two recorded cases of the species’ successful breeding under human care reported, caretakers are aiming to breed the pair for a better understanding of the bird’s biology.

Watch Wildlife Reserves Singapore’s video below to catch them in action here…

…And then watch this BBC Earth video on the dark side of Shoebills.

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