By Jason Ng
Widespread logging and poaching threaten to push a popular hornbill species to the brink of extinction in one of the largest forests in Malaysia — its sole home in the tropical country — and wildlife experts aren’t sure how to stop it.
The plain-pouched hornbill has a brightly colored, long curved beak and a distinctive yellow pouch similar to the throat sac found on pelicans.
The cause of the population threat is clear. In addition to logging and poaching, the birds are sometimes hunted by humans for food. Those that are left live in the Belum-Temengor forest reserve in northern state of Perak, one of the world’s oldest rainforests.
But what to do to help the hornbill is anything but clear.
“Not much is known about the biology, ecology and conservation needs” of the plain-pouched hornbill, says Yeap Chin Aik, a bird specialist at the Malaysian Nature Society. Such a lack of detailed information is hurting conservation efforts.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature already classifies the plain-pouched hornbill as a “vulnerable” species in what it calls its Red List Criteria. That means it is considered to be facing a “high risk” of extinction in the wild. BirdLife International, a conservation organization, estimates the species’ population at between 1,500 and 7,000 mature individuals, and the figure is rapidly shrinking.
The plain-pouched hornbill, or Aceros Subruficollis, is one of dozens of species in the hornbill family. More....