Indonesia: New Hope for Indonesia's Pangolins and Helmeted Hornbills on World Animal Day

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 4 Oct 16;

Jakarta. While the world celebrated World Animal Day on Tuesday (04/10), 2,500 delegates from around the globe continued the fight for wildlife conservation at the 17th Conference of Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

CITES has been the largest conference on trade controls for 500 endangered species of flora and fauna around the world.

So far, the conference saw several items of good news, such as a global ban on the world's most traded mammal, pangolins.

This creates a gleam of hope for Indonesia's critically endangered Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), as populations have declined by 80 percent in just more than two decades due to illegal trade.

The ban was unanimously agreed on by 182 nations, but ironically, according to the Guardian news outlet, Indonesia opposed the move to protect the species.

Last Sunday, the conference also agreed to adopt stronger regulations on conservation of the critically endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), which is highly vulnerable to trade for its rare red "casques," or ivory.

"This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory," said Noviar Andayani, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia program. "Many have heard about the elephant ivory crisis and now it is time to hear more about the helmeted hornbill ivory crisis and take swift action to save it."

The tropical forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar are home to the majestic species, which is known for its distinguishable laugh-like calls. Then birds are mainly hunted for their tail feathers for use in traditional attire.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, helmeted hornbills are also critically endangered due to habitat degradation.

Those pushing for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceroses can celebrate also, after CITES deciding on going against Swaziland's proposal to continue trade of southern white rhino horn, and a proposal by Namibia and Zimbabwe to be allowed to sell ivory to raise funds for conservation.

The three countries believe the money generated from the rhino horn and ivory trade could help their efforts to conserve the African elephant (Loxodonta) and white rhino (Ceratotherium simum).

The CITES conference began on Sept. 24 and will end on Wednesday.

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