The Hornbill Project, Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you haven’t seen a hornbill in the wild, you’re really missing out. They’re a magnificent bird species. They’re also crucial to the development of forests. Why? It’s because they disperse the seeds of trees. Without the hornbill, some species simply can’t populate properly because they can’t reach a wide enough area with their seeds.
It’s also important to note that this can also cause genetic deficiencies in tree populations. Without new seeds being introduced to the area – the trees are basically being forced into long-term inbreeding.
There are 54 different species of hornbill worldwide. Thailand is the natural home of 13 species of hornbill.
Hornbills mate for life and every year they return to the same tree to nest and raise their young. The female hornbill enters a hole in the tree and then seals herself inside, using a mix of mud and droppings, in order to fend off predators. The male is left to provide for his mate and the young. Hornbills are mainly frugivorous (e.g. fruit eaters) but if they need to, they can also eat small reptiles, insects and even smaller bird species.
Hornbills and Chiang Mai
Mae Kampong, the home of Chiang Mai’s Flight of the Gibbon experience, was once the home of at least two species of hornbill. These were the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Antracoceros Albirostris) and the Great Hornbill (Buceros Bicornics).
If you’d have visited Mae Kampong about 40 years ago, you could have seen these wonderful creatures swooping through the skies. But sadly, today, they are none left. They are victims of hunting and poaching and have become extinct in Mae Kampong.
Bringing the Hornbill Back
Flight of the Gibbon’s conservation team is hoping to bring the Oriental Pied Hornbill back to Mae Kampong. We’re hoping to be able to breed hornbills in captivity and then rehabilitate them and release them into the wild.
We’re working with a team of top scientists, from a local university, that specializes in the study of hornbills. They’ve been working with these birds for many years now. They will be visiting Flight of the Gibbon in June to survey the forest and make certain that reintroducing this species is feasible and appropriate.
We are also expecting to work with the National Parks, the Forestry Department and Local Zoos for their help and support in these efforts.
If the survey is successful; we’ll be introducing a few pairs of these birds and then monitoring them closely. We already know of other cases in which The Oriental Pied Hornbill has been successfully reintroduced in other parts of Southeast Asia and we’ve seen that it seems to be adaptable to new environments and easy to repopulate.
There are two main aims of this program:
- To increase the numbers of this amazing bird in the wild.
- To create a more diverse forest environment, simply by letting the hornbills do what comes naturally.