• Hooked on hornbills

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    A Rhinoceros Hornbill (buceros rhinoceros) perched in the distance PHOTO FROM HORNBILLS.ORG

    A Rhinoceros Hornbill (buceros rhinoceros) perched in the distance PHOTO FROM HORNBILLS.ORG

    In Malaysia, forests that are older than the Amazon and the Congo continue to thrive and serve as habitat for rare species. One that is the world-known Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, which is the largest remaining contiguous block of natural forest in the country.

    With this massive ecosystem, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) called on representatives from neighboring countries to share information that is crucial to the conservation of the rare and beautiful birds—the hornbills.

    At the heart of the Belum-Temengor, the MNS conducted a Hornbill Conservation and Training Workshop from October 13 to 16, as one of the capacity-building activities that supports many initiatives by the Hornbill Conservation Project of MNS with Birdlife International.

    The workshop targeted the government agencies of Malaysia responsible for wildlife and forest conservation, and had indigenous groups living in these areas who participated in the workshop.

    Belum-Temengor Forest Complex is home to 10 species of hornbills recorded in Malaysia. One of the hornbill species is considered vulnerable, six are near threatened, and only three species are in stable condition. Habitat loss and hunting are the primary threats to these species. Though hornbill conservation in Malaysia is still in its infancy, this initiative is now gaining its attention locally.

    To gain further ground, the MNS invited resource persons from Indonesia, the Philippines and Miri, Malaysia to share hornbill conservation work and information in different areas within the Southeast Asian region.

    Haribon Foundation, the Birdlife partner in the Philippines, shared Hornbill conservation actions in the Philippines. Specifically with the study of the critically endangered Writhed-billed Hornbill, the rapid decrease of its population in Panay Island, and the conservation efforts done by Haribon for the protection of the said species and its natural habitat. Philippine biodiversity was also shared in the discussion, as well as how habitat loss affects biodiversity and is a threat to numerous threatened species in our country.

    The workshop included discussions on the identification and conservation of local hornbills, the ongoing wildlife trade in Asia, and a lot of field activities for the participants to see and appreciate the hornbills in the wild. Local birdwatchers and some members of MNS volunteered to help in the field activities and in the identification of the hornbills observed in the area.

    Towards the end of the workshop, the government agencies who attended shared their realizations of the importance of these species and why the need to protect them. They also realized the interconnectivity of biodiversity, their natural habitat, and the importance of other wildlife species to sustain life.

    The government agencies made plans in response to hornbill conservation and protection in their specific fields. A lot of actions have to be made locally and globally. Everything in this world, big or small, is connected to each other and has a purpose to make the world a better place.

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