Artificial nest box project in Sukau to increase hornbill population

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KINABATANGAN: The artificial nest box project in Sukau near here is likely to increase the chances of survival of the endangered hornbill species in the country.

Malaysian social enterprise Gaia Xplore and a French non-governmental organisation, Hutan Kinabatangan Orang-utan Conservation Programme (Hutan-KOCP) are showing positive results from the collaboration made since 2015.

Gaia’s scientific director Dr Ravinder Kaur said their primary work on studying Malaysian hornbills, especially their nesting and breeding behaviour has led to the innovation of the artificial nest boxes.

“In the past seven years, we have seen five successful Rhinoceros hornbill fledglings from nest boxes pioneered by Hutan-KOCP and nine Oriental Pied hornbill fledglings from restored tree cavities.

“Our efforts are spread out along the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS) area which is about 28,000 ha,” she told the New Straits Times.

The fruitful outcomes, she said, are also complemented by working closely with the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Departments, Nature Based Solutions and also other international organisations such as Chester Zoo, Beauval Zoo, Phoenix Zoo and the local community from Sukau village.

Ravinder added the installation of the boxes is crucial since hornbills require a selected type of natural tree cavity to nest.

“As the species is unable to form cavities on their own and natural ones are less now in this particular forest. This is a hindrance to their population recovery.

“From our observation, we see less of the Helmeted and White-crowned hornbills in our study areas, and these are the species that we are most concerned about,” she said, adding more studies are needed to know exact hornbill populations in the country.

Each artificial nest box costs RM10,000 for materials, construction and installation by a team of professionals -which is an inexorable price to save this precious species.

Last year in June, the team received a generous commitment of RM1,500,000 from Yayasan Sime Darby to be spent over a period of three years.

With the support and funding from Yayasan Sime Darby, Ravinder said they can expand their efforts towards the improvement of hornbill nesting and breeding, as well as increasing availability of their naturally preferred food in the forests.

“With this funding, we are now able to strengthen our team and amplify our efforts in creating awareness about hornbills among local communities and Malaysians at large particularly through our plans on publications of important policies and guidelines, capacity building workshops for our key stakeholders, as well as organising other events involving the public.

“We are also expanding our (similar) efforts in the Kenyir State Park (in peninsular Malaysia) through a collaboration with Nature Based Solutions, another beneficiary of Yayasan Sime Darby.”

Ravinder added that by increasing the hornbill population, the species not only play their roles in restoring the forest biodiversity but also will provide economic benefits for the locals and country through bird watching ecotourism activities.

There are 10 species listed in the IUCN Red List found in Malaysia: critically endangered Helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), endangered Wrinkled hornbill, (Rhabdotorrhinus corrugatus), endangered White-crowned hornbill (Berenicornis comatus),vulnerable Rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros), vulnerable Black hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus), vulnerable Wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), vulnerable Great hornbill (Buceros bicoris), vulnerable Plain-pouched hornbill (Rhyticeros subruficollis), near threatened Bushy-crested hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus); and least concern species Oriental Pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris).

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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