WWF Insider: This Rare Bird on China’s Shopping Cart

A minute a day to save wildlife

The next 1 minute will tell you if the world is doing enough for our wildlife.

Helmeted hornbill at Budo Sungai-Padi National Park in Thailand.
© naturepl.com / Tim Laman / WWF

You probably don’t know this but every day this week, the fates of endangered wildlife will be decided.

Here, our bite-sized pictorial updates about wildlife (see more about saving the great whales and wild elephants from ivory trade) as we take you through the 70th CITES Standing Committee (1-5 Oct) which also leads up to London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference (11-12 Oct).

CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is supported by the United Nations.

Where can you find the helmeted hornbill?

Native to Southeast Asia, the helmeted hornbill lives in the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Bukit Tigapuluh, or “Thirty Hills,” landscape, a deforestation hotspot in Sumatra, Indonesia. The numbers of helmeted hornbills in Sumatra have been decimated due to poaching. Fears are increasing that they may disappear altogether.
© Neil Ever Osborne / WWF-US
Range countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia need stronger international support to halt any further destruction of their populations.
A carved casque being sold in China. To address this crisis, we first have to get consumer countries — mainly China — to take action.
© Tim Laman, National Geographic 

SPECIAL YET CURSED: Why is this critically endangered bird killed for ‘red ivory’?

The solid composition of their casque, ideal for carving, is what makes the helmeted hornbill different from other hornbill species.
Said to be more valuable than elephant ivory, the casque of the male hornbill aka ‘red ivory’ is especially prized in China, fetching higher (up to five times) prices.
© Tim Laman, National Geographic
Intricate carvings made from endangered species, like the helmeted hornbill, are becoming more popular in places like China, Thailand and Vietnam.
© WWF / James Morgan

Why is there a rising demand for ‘red ivory’ in China?

Birds’ nests are popularly traded in Borneo, then sold to China to be sold as herbal medicine. The helmeted hornbill, too, is regarded as exquisite carved decorations among the rich in China.
© WWF / Simon Rawles
Locals sitting on a truck in Sumatra, Indonesia. Chinese nationals often make their way to Indonesia to support the sinister trade, too.
© WWF / Matthew Lee
Pekanbaru Airport in Sumatra, Indonesia. Investigations into trade in Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia indicate that poaching of helmeted hornbills is the work of organised gangs.
© WWF / Matthew Lee

Want to know more? See more species, other than the helmeted hornbill, on WWF’s “Top 10 Most Wanted” Endangered Species in the Golden Triangle here.

Stay tuned to this space for more 1-min updates on global developments in wildlife protection.

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1 Comment

  • Simon Attwood, October 9, 2018 @ 9:41 am Reply

    A tragic case of when demand becomes too great….there’s a real ‘tragedy of the commons’ about this story, in which the hornbills are unwitting players. As the clamp down on ivory increases, has any analysis been done to see what other wildlife products (e.g. hornbill casques) will replace it?

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