Photo by Tim Layman/NPL
Helmeted Hornbill seems doomed to extinction
Damian Carrington, in Britain's Guardian newspaper, says that the rare Helmeted Hornbill's solid red beak sells for several times the price of elephant ivory due to soaring demand on the Chinese black market. The demand is rapidly driving one of the world's most spectacular birds to extinction. Since 2011 poaching has soared in Indonesia, Borneo and Thailand to feed the Chinese demand for carved ivory, sending this hornbill into a death spiral. In three years the huge bird has moved from "near threatened" in 2012, to "critically endangered". The government of Indonesia recently advised the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, in South Africa, which gave this hornbill its highest level of protection in 1975, that all trade is illegal. Arguably one the most spectacular birds on the planet, the slow-breeding Helmeted Hornbill is particularly vulnerable to poaching. They mate for life. and when ready to lay their one or two eggs per year, the male uses mud to seal the female into a protective hole in a tree. It then feeds the female and chicks through a slit, meaning if the male is shot, the whole family starves. The bird's casque, or beak, is used to hammer out insects from rotting wood, or to fight. The hornbill has also been harmed by the loss of much of its habitat to palm oil plantations.