Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Birds » Hoatzin: Opisthocomiformes - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, HOATZINS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS

Hoatzin: Opisthocomiformes - Diet

ecotourism hoatzins leaves stomachs

These herbivores (plant eaters) feed on little else than tree leaves. They like young leaves and shoots as well as flowers and buds. They eat throughout the day, with especially long feeding periods at sunrise and sunset. Hoatzins enjoy leaves from more than fifty plant species.

Hoatzins have stomachs similar to those of cows in that they ferment (break down for easier digestion) their food. In other birds with multi-chambered stomachs, fermentation usually occurs in the hindgut (end of the digestive system). But hoatzins have particularly large crops (pouches that resemble stomachs where food is held) containing enzymes that attack food and break it down. The remaining fatty acids are absorbed through the crop wall and used as energy. These bacteria become a source of protein, carbon, and other nutrients. The crop also breaks down toxins present in a number of the plant leaves eaten by hoatzins.

EVEN ECOTOURISM HAS DIFFICULTIES

Ecotourism—that ever-growing industry in which vacationers spend their money to take environmentally sound trips—may come with some not-so-pleasant side effects. According to a March 2004 report in New Scientist magazine, researchers claim that the wild animals ecotourism strives to protect are becoming overly stressed when forced to come into contact with humans.

The hoatzin is affected by ecotourism. In one study conducted by Princeton University and the Frankfurt Zoological Society, only 15 percent of hoatzin nests contained eggs in a reserve in Ecuador, compared to 50 percent in restricted areas. The tourist-attracting population also had double the amounts of a particular stress-induced hormone in their bodies. Researchers placed microphones in the birds' nests and determined that although the birds did not attempt to escape when tourists were nearby, their heart rates escalated.

Ecotourism is a billion-dollar industry that attracts millions of people to nearly ninety nations and territories that might otherwise suffer from lack of funding. The industry directly affects wildlife, habitats, and ecosystems as well as local cultures and people. The concern now lies in the backlash of ecotourism, and experts agree that before ecotourism includes a new hot spot on its list of destinations, it should conduct pre-tourism research and determine how human contact will affect the animals' welfare.

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