Hornbill is a protected bird species but they are being hunted rampantly in South Thailand where authorities are now concerned it could face extinction if no effective measure is out to protect them. It is protected bird species defined by CITES as being endangered whereas its sale and trading are prohibited worldwide.
But hornbills still are facing hunting in the south particularly at the Budo mountain range.
Many were caught for sales as they fetched good prices.
But forestry were able to retrieve from poachers, though not many, and put them back to nature.
At a recent case of seizure, conservation personnel at the Pa Khok Mai Rua Wild Life Breeding Center in Narathiwat province managed to retrieve two one year old Hornbill birds that were caught by local villagers and were putting them on sale.
Officials suspect that the birds were captured from the forests of the Budo mountain range like the other 19 birds that were confiscated in previous raids and arrests.
According to the Mahidol University’s Science Faculty Ecosystem Research on Hornbill Habitats, there are a total of 13 types of hornbills found in Thailand.
Ten of these species are found in the southern region; six of which are mainly located in the Budo mountain range which include the Great Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill and White Crowned Hornbill.
The hornbills in this area are facing the danger of extinction due to rampant poaching and forest encroachment leaving less and less natural habitat for these magnificent creatures.
Wildlife breeding center chief Sorayuth Chaikiew said hornbills are large birds that need a very large area for its living habitat and as such should not be kept as pets.
Putting them in cages changes their behavior as they are not able to do live they way they do in the wild, he said.
His view was also shared by Mr Preeda Tiensongrasama, chief of the Ecology Study of Hornbills in the South.
“There is no point stepping-up breeding and conservation if we are not able to preserve its natural habitat. There must have cooperation from every party. We have to educate local residents so they understand that they shouldn’t pick these birds up in the first place. These rare birds are the nation’s treasure and should not be in the hands of collectors. If we don’t band together to help them now who will.”
Research on illegal wild life trading involving hornbills has revealed that the sale of these birds is openly advertised on the internet.
A White Crowned Hornbill was advertised for sale by its owner who lives in Pattani on 20 August 2014 over the internet.
This information coincides with details received by a former hornbill poacher who told conservation personnel that hornbills are still being traded illegally with local and overseas buyers. The price of each bird starts in the thousand mark locally however once the bird is taken out of the southern region to Bangkok, the prices rise very significantly, he said.
A former Hornbill poacher but now turned a member of the Khao Budo Hornbill Conservation Group in Narathiwat province said the bird is sold at three to four thousand baht.
He said he used to catch four to five birds per year.
But now he has stopped poaching saying that he has realized of conservation and that he would leave them where they are so that future generations will be able to see them in the wild.
There are a number of organizations helping with the conservation efforts of these majestic birds.
These hornbills are an umbrella species that determines where an ecosystem is healthy.
Unfortunately these birds are treasured by some faction of society who believed that owning these birds will add to their prestige.
The exorbitant prices these people are willing to pay for such birds are also the main draw for poachers.
This combined with its shrinking habitat is making it more and more difficult to help conserve these special birds.