NARATHIWAT — A suspected wildlife trader was arrested Saturday in Narathiwat province after authorities raided his house and found five baby hornbills, a protected and endangered bird.

Border patrol police found five baby great Indian hornbills as well as one musk in the unregistered house of Muhama Hayima, 31, in Narithiwat’s Joh Airong district, said Narongpol Muekthong, director of the Sixth Wildlife Conservation Management Office in nearby Pattani province.

The arrest was prompted by a tip off about an alleged wildlife trader in the area.

Narongpol observed that the five birds were young enough to still be without feathers, indicating they were probably taken from their nest in a process where the mother was likely killed.

June and July is hatching season for hornbills, both a protected and endangered species in Thailand, the wildlife officer added.

Narongpol suspects that the birds were taken from Budo-Sungai Padi National Park in Rueso district of Narathiwat province.

“The baby birds… are mostly sent to areas like Bangkok, Ratchaburi and Nakhon Pathom provinces because people still like to raise wild birds. There is a risk that these birds may not survive, however. As for the price, they cost around 3,000 to 4,000 baht each,” said Narong, adding that more exotic types of baby hornbill could fetch 10,000 baht in the illicit market.

The five baby hornbills have been taken into care by wildlife officials and will be returned to the wild once they are mature enough.

Great Indian Hornbill or buceros homrai are known as nok nok in Thai. They can live up to 50 years, can grow up to 150cm in length, and are native to southern Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia and West India. Mother birds usually lay no more than one or two eggs at a time, which take one month to hatch.

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