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Wildlife Officials Say Helmeted Hornbill Being Hunted into Extinction

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Thailand now has only 100 helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil); due to illegal hunting, and urgent intervention is needed, the Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) said.

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Thailand’s Wildlife officials has said it intends listing the Helmeted Hornbill as a conserved species. Demand for the illegal trade in Hornbill ivory has now risen dramatically.

Wildlife officials say hunters usually start their hunt for the birds during the nestling season, to kill the female birds for their Hornbill ivory. —and to catch their chicks which are in great demand, especially in China.

Since 2016, wildlife officials have managed to arrest five hunters and seized their live Helmeted Hornbills.

The helmeted hornbill is a spectacular, large, critically endangered bird that only occurs in intact tropical forests of South-east Asia.

The Helmeted Hornbill Hinted for its Ivory and Feathers

A dramatic rise in hunting has compounded the problem. The helmeted hornbill has long been under threat due to hunting for bill ivory and tail feathers.

Demand for and illegal trade in helmeted hornbill ivory has now risen dramatically, due to demand from China.

Wildlife officials said they have been cooperating with the Hornbill Research Foundation of Mahidol University. Conducting research on their nesting activities and behavior so that a preventative plan can be worked out to save them.

The department has formed a special patrol unit, called the smart patrol, to monitor the birds at their nesting grounds. It is also drafting a national plan for the management of Helmeted Hornbills.

According to TRAFFIC, a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring trafficking in wildlife, there were at least 236 online posts offering hornbill products and body parts for sale between last October and April this year.

The products on sale include hornbill ivory, pendants, rings, bracelets, belt buckles and stuffed hornbills.

“The average street value for each helmeted hornbill hunted for sale in Narathiwat is 10,000 baht,” officials said.

Thailand now has only 100 helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil); due to illegal hunting, and urgent intervention is needed, the Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) said. The remaining birds are confined to three wildlife conservation areas.

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Thailand’s Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax Vigil)