Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation intends listing the Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) as a conserved species to save the rare species from illegal hunting.

Informed sources in the department said that hunters usually start their hunt for the birds during the nestling season, between December and May, to kill the mother birds for their casques, or helmets, and to catch their chicks which are in great demand, especially in China.

Since 2016, the department has managed to arrest five hunters and seized their live Helmeted Hornbills and one carcass.

The Helmeted Hornbill is one of the most unusual hornbills, the only one with a solid casque.  However, this is precisely the cause of its downfall.  Helmeted Hornbills have been hunted for their casques in Borneo and traded with China for over a thousand years, but in the last nine years, the species has come under new and unprecedented pressure from an exploding demand for their casques, which are in great demand as a materials for carved jewelry and ornaments.  The birds are listed in Category 1 of Conserved Species under CITES.

The sources said that the department has been cooperating with the Hornbill Research Foundation of Mahidol University to conduct research on the nesting activities and behavior of the species so that a preventative plan can be worked out to save them.

The department has formed a special patrol unit, called the smart patrol, to monitor the birds at their nesting grounds.  It is also drafting a national plan for the management of Helmeted Hornbills.

According to TRAFFIC, a non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring trafficking in wildlife, there were at least 236 online posts offering hornbill products and body parts for sale between last October and April this year.

The products on sale include casques, pendants, rings, bracelets, belt buckles and stuffed hornbills.

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