Hornbills can thrive in urban Singapore

Straits Times Forum 6 Apr 09;

WE REFER to the ST Online letter, "Have we done homework on hornbills?" (March 28).

Hornbills play an ecological role in the germination of trees with large seeds, and the sustainability of our forests depend on these large birds.

With this in mind, the Singapore Hornbill Project was undertaken in 2004 to enhance the population and distribution of the Oriental Pied Hornbill, a native species of Singapore. The success in using artificial nests on Pulau Ubin has facilitated the spread of these hornbills on mainland Singapore.

Besides the Oriental Pied Hornbill, the Rhinoceros Hornbill is the other native hornbill of Singapore.

There is a lone female Rhinoceros Hornbill in the Bukit Timah area and our intention is to find it a male partner to facilitate their breeding in the wild.

We are aware of the need to ensure that the sub-species of hornbill is compatible, and are working with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to analyse the DNA of the female Rhinoceros and other hornbills that are considered for a release.

Given the success of the Singapore Hornbill Project, we believe that hornbills can thrive in urban Singapore.

There are natural tree cavities around the nature reserves that the hornbills can use for nesting. Artificial nests have also been installed as they are a tried-and-tested method, in other countries as well, for assisting hornbills to breed.

Poaching is illegal and we will continue to endeavour to do our part to enhance the native wildlife and apprehend any poachers. We also hope that the public will help to report any poaching activities to us should they come across them.

We agree that public education is important to bring awareness of Singapore's amazing biodiversity and that it can thrive if everyone plays a role in conserving it.

We thank the writer for his feedback and welcome him to contact us on 1800-4717300 (toll-free) or e-mail nparks_mailbox@nparks.gov.sg should he have any more queries regarding the research project.

The Singapore Hornbill Project:

Dr Geoffrey Davison
Assistant Director (Terrestrial)
National Parks Board

Biswajit Guha
Assistant Director (Zoology),
Singapore Zoo
Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Marc Cremades
CVM Pte Ltd