THE NATIONAL Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation Department announced yesterday that it would develop a national plan for the management and conservation of hornbills.
This plan would be in line with an international action plan introduced yesterday for the critically endangered helmeted hornbill.
A working group will be set up to develop the national plan, Pinsak Suraswadi, the department’s deputy director-general, said.
He said Thailand is committed to protecting the majestic bird’s habitat as well as reducing trafficking and trade of the bird. The future plan will also focus on reintroduction programmes so hornbill populations can be restored in natural habitats.
The country also recognises the importance of research and training while engaging all sectors, he said, and thus the Centre for Research and Training of Hornbill Conservation will be created.
Pinsak also praised the international plan and lauded the introduction of it here, which marks a watershed in efforts to preserve the species.
“We are very pleased to support hornbill conservation in the region,” he said at a press conference. “Today will be a great starting point for moving forward together to save our species.”
After the conference, a group of bird experts, including members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN, got together to discuss the plan.
Found in regions ranging from Africa to Asia, the birds are facing increasing threats of extinction despite their critical ecological roles.
Helmeted hornbills, with specific home ranges in the forests of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, are of a critical concern to ecologists as demands for the bright yellow and black casques atop their bills have surged in recent years, particularly in China for carved ornaments.
This is despite the fact that the species has been placed under the protection of the Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has banned all kinds of trade since 1975.
In 2015, global bird experts came together to address the situation at Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), prompting the species to be up-listed from “near threatened” to “critically endangered” by BirdLife International.
A Helmeted Hornbill Working Group (HHWG) was also created under the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
A year later, a resolution calling for an action plan for helmeted hornbill conservation was issued at the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the CITES CoP17, backed by members of the HHWG, while urging all CITES parties to take necessary steps to develop and implement the action plan.
This 10-year, wide-ranging conservation strategy calls for international collaboration and an increase in financial resources to scale up conservation attention aimed at targeted population recovery across the species’ range.
A key priority is the need to eliminate trafficking and trade in helmeted hornbills and derivatives by ensuring that the CITES Appendix I listing for the species is effectively implemented.
Anuj Jain from BirdLife International (Asia) and a coordinator of the HHWG, said: “Unless we protect key population strongholds and reduce international demand, we stand little chance to save the helmeted hornbill.”
Thailand is an important country for the species, with high levels of protection. Most long-term research on the species has been by the Hornbill Research Foundation.