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Rufous-headed hornbill conservation research and management project
Target species for conservation
The Philippines supports more endemic hornbills than any other country in the world; 9 species and at least 10 distinct subspecies. Unfortunately, all Philippines hornbills are threatened to varying degrees, with two species – the Sulu Hornbill (Anthracoceros montani) and the rufous-headed hornbill, being listed by IUCN/Birdlife International as ‘Critically Endangered’. This project focuses on the rufous-headed hornbill, one of the world’s most endangered hornbills, which is endemic to the West Visayas Faunal Region in the central Philippines. This region is one the world’s single highest conservation priority areas for conservation concern and action.
Within this region, the rufous-headed hornbill is known or presumed to have occurred on only three islands, 1) Negros: where only 3% forest cover remains and where the species was long feared extinct, but is now thought to survive in very small numbers in only two or three of the largest remaining forest fragments; 2) Guimaras: which has been almost entirely denuded and the species is undoubtedly certainly extinct; and 3) Panay: with approximately 6% remaining forest cover, but where remaining habitat (particularly species’ rich lowland forest) is already badly fragmented and still subject to continued attrition through agricultural encroachment, illegal logging and other disturbances.
Generally speaking, most existing ‘protected areas’ in this region are ineffectively protected, support little or no remaining lowland forest and are likewise subject to human encroachment, small scale logging and other illegal activities – including hunting. The rufous-headed hornbill has been traditionally subject to high levels of hunting pressure, to which it particularly prone – i.e. being not only a ‘noisy’ flyer, but tending to aggregate in fruiting trees and, perhaps most unfortunately, are reputed to congregate around injured flock members. As a consequence, proficient hunters (especially those that can mimic the calls of distressed birds) can extirpate relatively large numbers of individuals during single hunting excursions. Nesting birds are also especially susceptible to the robbing of their nests, resulting in the loss of breeding females and the squabs being sold via the local live animal trade or eaten as ‘pulutan’ (finger food) during beer drinking parties.
This project is part of an existing, long-term and integrated suite of biodiversity research and conversation management project within the West Visayas Faunal Region. It will be conducted under the auspices of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme (PBCFI-PBCP), which has been in continual operation since 1990, with a particular priority focus on the West Visayas Faunal Region, and the Hornbills Conservation Programme (PHCP).
The project intends to
- re-assess and affirm the current remaining distribution, conservation status, threats and likely future management needs of the rufous-headed hornbill and other key threatened endemic species within its restricted remaining range on Negros and Panay islands
- establish several new Local Conservation Areas (LCAs) for key existing protected areas within the remaining areas of distribution of the rufous-headed hornbill and other key threatened endemic species
- enable the continued development of the local conservation breeding programmes for the rufous-headed hornbill and other species
- investigate and develop reintroduction projects; especially where these may also help secure the enhanced future conservation management of remaining habitats and other wildlife in these areas.