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Oct 4, 2016

Rare bird's ivory bill target for poachers

 Photo by Doug Janson
Buceros vigil
The ivory beak of the Helmeted Hornbill is worth three times more than elephant tusk ivory, and as result the birds are worth more dead than alive to poachers in Malaysia and Indonesia.   Britain's Guardian newspaper, the BBC and Care2 Causes have passed along the story this past week.
This hornbill has a six-foot wingspan and weigh over six pounds.   It is the only one of 60+ hornbill species that has a lump of keration along the top of its bill and into the skull, called the casque.   While other hornbills have hollow casques, the Helmeted Hornbill's casque is solid ivory.   Its ivory beak is worth over $6,000 per kilogram; three times more than elephant ivory!   The casque is prized for the beauty and silky smooth texture that is perfect for carving into sculpture, trinkets and other objects of desire.   Reports are that about 6,000 of the birds are killed each year.
BBC says that 1,111 Helmeted Hornbills were confiscated from smugglers in just one province of Indonesia between 2012 and 2014.   Compared to elephants and rhinos, this hornbill does not get enough attention to save it from extinction. Habitat loss, due to rain-forest palm oil production is another danger to the species.
The IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species has just up-listed the Helmeted Hornbill form 'Near Threatened' to 'Critically Endangered' owing to severe hunting pressure and loss of habitat from logging and agricultural conversion.   Hope for help is buoyant as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meets in South Africa this week, where Indonesia is begging for more support of law enforcement collaboration between Helmeted Hornbill nations and end market countries, such as China, to reduce poaching and smuggling of hornbills.

-- Carved Helmeted Hornbill skull photos by Science Photo Library
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