Restoring hornbill habitats in Arunachal Pradesh

Pakke Tiger Reserve and the adjoining Reserved Forests in Arunachal Pradesh, India are spread over an area of more than 2000 km2 and harbor a diverse array of plant and animal species. It is known as a haven for 4 hornbill species in India. Human activities like hunting, illegal logging, particularly outside Pakke, are negatively affecting hornbill populations and their habitat. Habitat loss due to logging is a major threat to hornbills that are dependent on large trees for nesting. This area has experienced amongst the highest rates of forest loss for India in the recent past.

With the restoration program, we hope to bring back some of the lost hornbill habitats (by bringing back hornbill food and nest trees) and secure the long-term future of these birds and other wildlife. To this end, rainforest nursery was set up in 2013 in a village near Pakke, with an aim of raising native rainforest tree species and using them to restore the degraded forest patches in and around the area. The tree species selected are important food and nest trees of hornbills and for other birds and mammals and also includes economically important species for planting by the local communities. In the past four years, we have raised around 17,000 saplings of 60 native tree species. Planting began in 2016 and a total area of 11 ha has been covered so far. Survival monitoring indicates 45-85% survival across the sites in a year’s time. Some sites show higher survival (84%) due to controlled conditions like fencing and deweeding. With such successful rate of establishment of the saplings, there is a hope for recovery of these habitats in the long-term. We hope to expand this program and cover more degraded patches in and around Pakke in the coming years.

Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

The Hornbill Nest Adoption Program (HNAP) is a community-based conservation initiative, through which local tribal villagers protect nest trees of hornbills in forests around villages on the fringe of the Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunchal Pradesh, India. This area is a haven for hornbills, harbouring four of the nine species found in India – Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Rufous-Necked Hornbill and Oriental Pied Hornbill. However, these populations are threatened by anthropogenic activities, such as hunting (for meat, casque and feathers) and illegal logging. In response to these severe threats to hornbills occuring outside the Protected Area, HNAP was started in 2012, in partnership with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department and the Ghora-Aabhe Society (a local NGO). We currently have 11 local Nest Protectors monitoring and protecting 37 hornbill nests. From 2012 – 2018, 119 hornbill chicks have successfully fledged from our nests. Funds raised from urban donors and zoos who ‘adopt’ hornbill nests go towards paying the salaries of these local villagers, their field equipment and a certain percentage is also set aside each year for community welfare and developmen

Community-based Patrols and Nest Guardians to Combat Poaching of the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill in Indonesia

The Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) inhabits lowland and upland rainforests in Southeast Asia. Recent data has shown that the Helmeted Hornbill red ivory in China is nearly five times that of elephant ivory. From 2012 to 2014 over 1,000 casks were confiscated by the Indonesian government, and in 2013 one study estimated nearly 500 adult Helmeted Hornbills were killed per month (6,000 per year) in the West Kalimantan province alone. The evolutionary circumstances of this species cause it to be at high risk for extinction as this species breeds slowly and exists at extremely low carrying capacities. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia the Helmeted Hornbill is the provincial symbol and can be found at tourist attractions throughout the province. Despite the appearance of “local pride” in this species, this province has been the target of the trade in Indonesia with an estimated 80% of casks exported from Indonesia originating from Western Borneo. The purpose of this project is to counter wildlife trafficking in West Kalimantan, Indonesia by increasing protection of habitat and increasing law enforcement to conserve the symbol of West Kalimantan. This project is intended to conserve the Helmeted Hornbill by addressing the impacts of the yellow and red ivory trade that is decimating populations throughout the species range. Specific activities focus engaging communities in the Gunung Nuit Nature Reserve in community-based SMART patrol units and a Nest Guardians program.

Mabula Ground Hornbill Project

The Southern Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri), also known as the Thunder Bird, faces a number of escalating anthropogenic threats in southern Africa. Persecution for their window-breaking habits, accidental poisoning by incorrectly used agricultural pesticides, malicious and secondary poisoning , electrocution, trade for aviculture and traditional medicine and rituals, and the ubiquitous loss of habitat and resultant loss of suitable nest trees. This, coupled with a slow breeding rate, complex social and cooperative breeding structure, is resulting in the swift decline of this long-lived species beyond the borders of the largest formally protected areas.
The Mabula Ground-Hornbill Project, has over the past two decades trialled a number of conservation techniques and is now the lead agency for the conservation of the species. No single action will not be sufficient and so the Project employs a multi-pronged, and multi-disciplinary, approach to slow and then reverse the decline that includes reintroductions using redundant second-hatched chicks into areas where the species is locally extinct; monitoring populations beyond protected areas, conservation capacity building; sound conservation biology research (genetics/artificial nests/hormone); extensive education and awareness campaigns working locally with rural schools, traditional authorities and farmer committees and nationally through the available media; threat mitigation at a territory scale through a community custodianship programme; and development of a national artificial nest programme. This culturally and ecologically important flagship species is also an excellent starting point for conversation about greater conservation issues.