Johannesburg, South Africa (Sept. 26, 2016) -- The Indonesian Government is scheduled to propose a resolution at CITES Cop17 on Tuesday, Sept 26, to ask for stricter enforcement from all nations to prevent the helmeted hornbill from going extinct.

The helmeted hornbill, which is found in SE Asia, is facing a crisis as poachers seek to kill it for its red ivory.

As the Indonesian Government calls for stricter enforcement, WCS can provide interviews for this CITES breaking story.

Widespread clearance of much of the species’ lowland forest habitat, especially for monoculture oil palm plantations, is a major threat to the species. A dramatic rise in hunting has compounded the problem. The helmeted hornbill has long been under threat due to hunting for its wing and long central tail feathers used in traditional costumes in the Bornean part of its range, which has knocked down numbers, and caused the species to disappear entirely from parts of its range. Furthermore, the species is the only hornbill with a solid casque, known as red ivory due to the outside hue of the horn.

Why: It is “ivory on wings,” according to WCS VP of Species Conservation Elizabeth Bennett.

Supporting the Indonesian Government resolution at the Cop17 are: Indonesia Hornbill Conservation Society, Species Survival Network, Wildlife Conservation Society, Born Free, Birdlife International, Animal Welfare Institute, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Environmental Investigation Agency, and the Helmeted Hornbill Working Group.

Dwi Adhiasto, Wildlife Trade Program Manager, WCS Indonesia is reporting: “On Sept. 24, A SMART patrol team  of Gunung Leuser National Park rangers and WCS arrested a helmeted hornbill poacher. The suspect was arrested with the evidence of 1 riffle with silencer and monocular, headlamp, bullets, and logistics. There was no helmeted hornbill casque during the arrest because the poacher have just entered the forest.

From Indonesia Government:

Dr. Tachrir Fathoni, Director General of the Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem, Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry

"Helmeted hornbill is protected by Indonesian Regulation No. 5, year 1990, and Government Regulation No. 7, year 1999. We need international support through CITES Resolution to fight against helmeted hornbill trade. The Indonesian government including Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Customs, and Indonesian National Police since 2012 has arrested and prosecuted 15 traffickers related to Helmeted Hornbill poaching and trading in Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan. Three exit points were detected in Medan, Jakarta, and Pontianak. The arrests resulted in a total of 1,117 Helmeted Hornbill casques. From that case, 759 confiscated casques were seized at 3 international airports in Indonesia, intended for the international market in Hongkong and China. What we do and what we are going to decide in this CoP17 will define the future of the helmeted hornbill. 


The helmeted hornbill is a spectacular, large, critically endangered bird that only occurs in intact tropical forests of South-east Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand and Myanmar). Helmeted hornbills pair for life, and each pair maintains a large territory, marked and defended by one of the most dramatic long-distance calls of any bird, culminating in what sounds like a cackling laugh audible from at least a kilometer away through the forest.

The species is fully legally protected in all parts of its range (except Sabah where some licensed hunting can be allowed), and is listed on Appendix I of CITES, so both national and international trade has been only at low levels -- until recently. Demand for and illegal trade in hornbill ivory has now risen dramatically. One estimate is that 500 birds were killed every month in West Borneo alone in 2013, and that hundreds of birds are being smuggled out of Sumatra every month. The breeding biology of the species means that it is extremely vulnerable to hunting; the female nests in tree hollows, and is sealed into the hole by the male using dried mud, where she stays incarcerated for some 160 days while the male feeds her through a slit in the seal. If the male is hunted, this makes the female extremely vulnerable, and can result in the additional deaths of her and her chicks. The main market for the horn is China, even though all such trade is illegal there.