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World’s Nations Take A Stand To Save The Helmeted Hornbill From Extinction

The Wildlife Conservation Society released the following statement today celebrating the decision by the parties at CITES CoP17 to protect the critically endangered helmeted hornbill.

Male hornbill at nest in Thailand. Credit: Morten Strange/WCS.
Male hornbill at nest in Thailand. Credit: Morten Strange/Thailand Hornbill Project.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa  

Governments at CITES CoP17 took action today calling for stricter enforcement from all nations to prevent the extinction of the helemted hornbill.

The CITES Parties agreed to adopt a strong Resolution and Decisions calling for urgent and integrated conservation and law enforcement measures, as well as coordinated efforts on the part of both consumer and range States as necessary to prevent the species from going extinct.

This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory

“This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory,” said Noviar Andayani, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program. “Many have heard about the elephant ivory crisis and now it is time to hear more about the helmeted hornbill ivory crisis and take swift action to save it.”

Said Susan Lieberman, VP of International Policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society: “At the Wildlife Conservation Society, we applaud the Government of Indonesia for calling for further action to address the significant threats to this critically endangered species from trafficking. Today’s actions at CITES CoP17 for the helmeted hornbill were necessary to give this magnificent bird a chance to survive.

Perpetrator’s handcuffed hands, holding helmeted hornbill casque (red ivory) in a bust in June 2014 in North Sumatra. Credit: Dewantoro for WCS.
Perpetrator’s handcuffed hands, holding helmeted hornbill casque (red ivory) in a bust in June 2014 in North Sumatra. Credit: Dewantoro for WCS.

“The helmeted hornbill is listed in CITES Appendix I, and is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. The massive and increasing demand for helmeted hornbill casques—so called “red ivory” in the international market has led to rampant poaching of this species.

“WCS collaborates closely with the Government of Indonesia through our Wildlife Crime Unit, and our field programs in the country and other range states. We appreciate the commitment of Indonesia to the conservation of this species and to stopping poaching and trafficking. However, Indonesia and other range states cannot do this alone—collaboration between range and consumer states is critical. We appreciate all the discussion of trafficking in elephant ivory and rhino horn—and now we welcome this attention to the critically endangered helmeted hornbill.”

Infographic credit: WCS.
Infographic credit: WCS.

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At WCS, we appreciate the work of many, including: Yok Yok Hadiprakarsa, Indonesia Hornbill Conservation Society; Ron Orenstein; and the Thailand Hornbill Project. 

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Dwi Adhiasto, Wildlife Trade Program Manager, WCS Indonesia is reporting this week: “On Sept. 24, A SMART patrol team of Gunung Leuser National Park rangers and WCS arrested a helmeted hornbill poacher. The suspect was arrested with the evidence of 1 riffle with silencer and monocular, headlamp, bullets, and logistics. There was no helmeted hornbill casque during the arrest because the poacher have just entered the forest.”

Background on the Helmeted Hornbill

The helmeted hornbill is a spectacular, large, Critically Endangered bird that only occurs in intact tropical forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and Myanmar. Helmeted hornbills pair for life, and each pair maintains a large territory, marked and defended by one of the most dramatic calls of any bird, culminating in what sounds like a cackling laugh audible from at least a kilometer away through the forest. Widespread clearance of much of the species’ lowland forest habitat, especially for monoculture oil palm plantations, is a major threat to the species. A dramatic rise in hunting has compounded the problem. The helmeted hornbill has long been under threat due to hunting for its wing and long central tail feathers used in traditional costumes, which has knocked down numbers, and caused the species to disappear entirely from parts of its range. Furthermore, the species is the only hornbill with a solid casque, also known as red ivory which is carved into artefacts, the demand for which drives the poaching pressure on the species.

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For more information on WCS positions at CITES, go to wcs.org/cites

Helmeted hornbill casque (red ivory) with confiscated rifles with silencers in a bust in June 2014 in North Sumatra. Credit: Dewantoro for WCS.
Helmeted hornbill casque (red ivory) with confiscated rifles with silencers in a bust in June 2014 in North Sumatra. Credit: Dewantoro for WCS.