IPOH: For the past decade, a conservation group that conducts expeditions to the Royal Belum-Temengor forest complex has found, to its dismay, that it has spotted just about 20 Helmeted Hornbills.
The number of these critically endangered birds has not shown any signs of an increase, said Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) president and chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian.
“This is worrying, ” he said, attributing it to logging, poaching and habitat loss at the adjoining forest reserves of Temengor, Grik and Amanjaya.
“And it is the only type of hornbill with solid casque that is left. What has happened to the hatchlings?” he asked.
The casque of the Helmeted Hornbill could fetch a good price in the black market.
Some online reports have estimated that these casques, which are used to carve jewellery and ornaments, could cost about US$1,000 (RM4,132).
Andrew said there were 10 types of hornbill species at the complex, but during a three-day expedition last weekend, only eight species were spotted.
The species spotted last weekend were the Oriental Pied Hornbill, Black Hornbill, Bushy crested Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Plain-pouched Hornbill and the Helmeted Hornbill.
Andrew said he was certain that the other two species – Wrinkled and Wreathed hornbills – were still there but they could have missed them due to the rain.
“Most of the species are threatened with habitat loss, logging and poaching, except for the Oriental Pied Hornbills, which have adapted well in most parts of the country despite urbanisation, ” he added.
As for Plain-pouched Hornbill, he said there used to be thousands of them in the forest complex in the 1980s but only 195 were recorded now.
Andrew said the Royal Belum State Park would become an “island” if logging was left unchecked and this would not only extinguish the “hornbill capital of the world” but other unique and endangered wildlife.
“People must be made aware that we have iconic hornbills in our midst. They are natural treasures. We need to do better in protecting their habitat.
“Logging threatens not only the sustainability of the state park but as a larger habitat that must include the Temengor, Grik and Amanjaya forest reserves, all of which make up what is known as the Royal Belum-Temengor forest complex.
“This complex is one of the few remaining areas that are home to almost all our large mammals, and wildlife species, ” he added.