Mercury concentrations in eggshells of the Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) and Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus) in South Africa

23 Mar 2015

In this study, wild hatched eggshells were collected from the nests of the threatened Wattled Crane and South Ground-Hornbill in an attempt to determine total Hg concentrations. A total of fourteen eggshell samples from both bird species were collected from different study areas in the Mpumlanga and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces, South Africa. The eggshells were acid digested under reflux and their total Hg contents were determined using cold-vapour atomic absorption spectrophotometry (CV-AAS). The observed total Hg levels for the South Ground-Hornbill samples ranged from 1.31 to 8.88 μg/g dry weight (dw), except for one outlier which had an elevated 75.0 μg/g dw. The levels obtained for the Wattled Crane samples were relatively higher and these ranged from 14.84 to 36.37 μg/g dw. Generally, all the measured total Hg concentrations for the Wattled Crane samples exceeded the estimated total Hg levels derived for eggshell which were known to cause adverse reproductive effects in avian species from previous studies. Based on these findings, it is, therefore, possible that the exposure of these birds to elevated Hg may have contributed to their present population decline.