edZOOcating: Rhinoceros Hornbill Conservation Series
The rhinoceros hornbill and the great hornbill have very similar nesting behaviors, though they are different species. Check it out!
So, What’s the Problem?
Because of the very specific conditions required and the high-risk strategy of reproduction utilized by the rhinoceros hornbill, changes to their ecosystem have made it hard for their populations to remain stable.
Across many parts of Southeast Asia, forests are rapidly being destroyed for lumber and agriculture. One of the largest threats to these forests is clearing to convert the land to palm oil plantations. Forests are cleared with massive, uncontrolled fires that destroy entire ecosystems in the blink of an eye and engulf native wildlife. As these forests are cleared, hornbills have fewer and fewer places to nest and trees that they have used for years are no longer available. Without the ability to reproduce, rhinoceros hornbill populations have dramatically declined.
Though poaching does not pose as large of a threat as deforestation, it has certainly impacted their populations in many regions. Hunted for food, the bird trade, and their body parts, hornbills are a highly sought after target for some. Their feathers, beaks, and casques are often used in ceremonial dress and rituals and some body parts have commonly been used in traditional Chinese medicine. The rhinoceros hornbill shares its range with the helmeted hornbill, which is heavily poached for its ivory casque, and is often shot in confusion.
Conservationists Take Action
Protecting rhinoceros hornbills means protecting so much more, including other species of hornbills and animals who require old-growth forests to thrive.
HUTAN is a conservation organization in Borneo, an island off the coast of SE Asia, that has worked to protect the primary forests and its inhabitants since the mid-1990s.
In 2013, HUTAN began working on artificial nest boxes that would be tied to old-growth trees in Kinabatangan in an effort to provide more nest sites to the 8 species of hornbills living in Borneo.
Through trial and error, nest boxes were modified to replicate natural cavities. Biologists monitored temperature and humidity and designed boxes to blend in with the natural environment.
With the help of many international zoos, several artificial nest boxes have been installed and monitored to continue making improvements.
Explore conservation challenges, strategies, and successes happening in ecosystems all around the world! Discover new ways conservationists are thinking outside of the box and how you and your students can make a difference.