Malaysia: Development pushes hornbills further inland

New Straits Times 21 Jul 13;

KUCHING: Sarawak's hornbills are not extinct, they have just moved deeper inland.

This is because their habitats, which are close to town, have been destroyed as development projects move in, forcing the state's iconic bird to find new homes in the jungle.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation protected areas and biodiversity conservation division deputy general manager Oswald Braken Tisen said the perception that the bird was extinct in Sarawak was because of a lack of sightings of the birds in town.

"People wonder why they can't see hornbills flying around in their neighbourhood any more. The answer is, they are moving to a new habitat."

Hornbills can still be sighted all over the national parks in the state, including Gunung Mulu National Park, Lanjak and Entinau Wildlife Sanctuary as well those in the suburbs, such as Tanjung Datu in Sematan, Kubah, Matang, Gunung Gading in Bau and even Santubong.

Although they were not extinct, he said like all wildlife, the existence of the birds was still under threat.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Hornbills, they fall into the categories of vulnerable and endangered.

In Sarawak, all its species are totally protected. They are the white crowned, bushy-crested, wrinkled, wreathed, Asian black, oriental pied, rhinoceros and the helmeted hornbills.

The bird is also fully protected under the state's Wildlife Ordinance, which provides for appropriate action to be taken against those found guilty of killing or keeping the bird.

The state Forestry Department is also stepping up its efforts to ensure the survival of the bird by creating awareness and getting public participation in its endeavours.

"That is the only way we can protect our hornbills, by getting the community's participation and through education.

"Besides, Sarawak is known as the Land of the Hornbills and all of us must preserve that heritage," said Braken, who attended a hornbill conservation talk by Kasetsart University Thailand forest biology department Assistant Professor Vijak Chimchome.

Vijak agreed that artificial nesting could be used to help the oriental pied hornbill at Piasau Camp, Miri, to nest as the riverine area is inundated with casuarina trees which often do not have any old nests.

"The species is very adaptable. As long as there is plenty of food, this species will survive," said Vijak.

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