Indonesia: W. Kalimantan residents urged to stop hornbill hunting

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 23 May 16;

West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis has called on residents to help protect the hornbill.

He said hornbills were becoming rarer because of excessive hunting, even though the bird was the official mascot of Kalimantan, which meant all parties were responsible for its conservation.

“Please, don’t kill hornbills [...]. We must protect hornbills. Please release them into their natural habitat. Don’t let them become extinct, otherwise our children and grandchildren won’t be able to see the bird species of which we are so proud,” said Cornelis. He further said that all Dayak temenggenung ( tribal leaders ) in the province must pass on his call to their people.

West Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ) data reveals that conservation officers had not rescued a significant number of hornbills.

BKSDA West Kalimantan’s head of forest rangers, Azmardi, told that very few hornbills had been saved by the agency’s officers. In most cases, live birds were not confiscated but their casques, or the helmet-like structure on the bill, from illegal wildlife traders who had attempted to smuggle them abroad.

Recently, a rhinoceros hornbill was rescued and is currently being kept in a 1.5-square-meter cage at the BKSDA office. The species, which is listed as a near threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources ( IUCN ) and included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES ) Appendix II, was confiscated from a local resident of Mempawah regency.

The CITES Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but their trade must be controlled.

Azmardi said one rhinoceros hornbill was saved in 2013, but none in the following two years. He said it was on May 13, the Mempawah resident handed over the male rhinoceros hornbill that he had kept as a pet for three years.

“It is estimated that this hornbill is 3 years old. It is healthy. Its feathers are complete and its appetite is good. As it has been kept for quite a long time, it needs to be rehabilitated before we can release it into the wild,” said Azumardi. He said three national parks in West Kalimantan were ready to be the location of the hornbill’s release.

The rhinoceros hornbill is an average 74 centimeters long from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail. Physically, the bird’s body is steady with black feathers covering all of its body. The color of the hornbill beak is yellow and red with a casque formed from layers of keratin, which covers the bird’s bill. The hornbill has a loud, heavy and husky voice.

Apart from the rhinoceros hornbill, West Kalimantan is also home to the helmeted hornbill, which is the official mascot of the province. Azmardi said conservation officers had never confiscated live birds.

“For helmeted hornbills, a legal measure we conducted in the past was the confiscation of the bird’s casques, for which there is an international market,” said Azmardi. He said 229 hornbill casques were confiscated in 2013.

A survey conducted by conservation group Ketapang Biodiversity Keeping ( KBK ) in 2013 revealed that the population of helmeted hornbills in Ketapang regency had sharply declined. Residents in several villages across the regency claimed that they had not heard the voices of helmeted hornbills since 1997.

“Only the casques of helmeted hornbills sell at a high price. But many wildlife hunters are unable to differentiate between the casques of helmeted hornbills and other species. As a result, they catch any hornbill they can find,” said KBK director Abdurrahman Al Qadrie. He said one helmeted hornbill casque sold for up to Rp 4 million ( US$294.55 ).

The hornbill casques are often processed into powder, which is used in traditional medicine. However, its effectiveness in curing illness has not been scientifically proven. Accessories made from casques, such as rings, bracelets and tobacco pipes, are also considered prestigious, “limited edition” accessories.

In Kapuas Hulu regency, the helmeted hornbill has special standing in the Dayak Iban tribal community. Nobelius, a Dayak Iban tribe leader, said the helmeted hornbill had a strong historical tie in battles between Dayak sub-tribes in the past.

“During battles, it was helmeted hornbills that always informed of the whereabouts of enemies because they could fly high and had sharp sight. The hornbill is believed to be a descendant of Keling, a strong character from the sky with divine power,” said Nobelius.

Because of the mythology, it is prohibited under indigenous Dayak Iban laws to hunt the hornbill. If people collect hornbill casques as accessories, they are mostly from deceased birds found in the forest, not a result of hunting, said Nobelius. ( ebf )

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