By John Isaac
THE helmeted hornbill, one of eight hornbill species that can be found in Sarawak, is now critically endangered due to years of poaching, warned local zoologist Jason Teo.
Teo, a Universiti Malaysia Sarawak graduate and member of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Kuching branch, said the critically-endangered species is the largest hornbill not just in Sarawak but also Borneo, and is at risk of going extinct.
Describing the helmeted hornbill as a “very special bird”, he said bird watchers have dubbed it ‘the phoenix’ due to its large size – about 120cm or four feet in length, roughly the size of a child.
“(Despite its size) It can still fly and it has a very beautiful long tail, just like the phoenix,” he said in a video uploaded on YouTube recently.
According to the Borneo Post, the video was made with the hope of raising awareness among the local community on the perilous state of the helmeted hornbill.
Teo said the helmeted hornbill is the only hornbill species in the world with a solid casque.
“It is a little bit sad that this helmeted hornbill may go extinct soon, as it is now critically endangered. It is one stage away from being extinct, because there are no more helmeted hornbills in the wild,” he added.
In calling on the people to play a part in preventing the extinction of the helmeted hornbill, Teo said the public can serve as the eyes and ears of the authorities in bringing an end to the hunting and selling of the hornbill’s casque.
“Alert the authorities if you come across any poaching or trading of helmeted hornbills. Poachers and smugglers are smart, so the authorities need to have eyes and ears everywhere. Things will change only if we play our part.”
He said increased public awareness can help save the helmeted hornbill similar to how the giant panda – once one of the world’s critically-endangered species – was rescued.