First hornbill reintroduction project launched in northern Thailand

The first project to reintroduce hornbills back into the ancient forests of northern Thailand was launched today by Dr Pilai Poonswad, Thailands foremost expert and researcher on hornbills and Mr Demis Galli, the Flight of the Gibbons Director of Conservation.  After an initial assessment this year of the local forests around Mae Kampong, a small village 50km east of Thailand’s second largest city Chiang Mai, field work to facilitate 5 breeding pairs of Oriental pied hornbills and 2 pairs of great hornbills will start in June.

Demis Galli explains the reintroduction program to the residents of Mae Kampong at the projects launch.

Demis Galli explains the reintroduction program to the residents of Mae Kampong at the projects launch.

There are 13 species of hornbills in Thailand with a total of 53 species worldwide. Hornbills were once common in all regions in Thailand but because of hunting, poaching and habitat destruction they have disappeared from most of the remaining fragments of forest left in the country. The remaining populations of hornbills are now only found in some protected areas in the south, central and west of the country.  They are a keystone species that play a critical role in the propagation and health of forests. Hornbills disperse seeds over large areas of their range and regenerate many important tree species that would not be able to survive otherwise.

The project aims to not only be successful in reintroducing hornbills into a region of Thailand where they have not been seen for over 40 years, but to create a working model for more reintroduction projects for hornbills in other viable regions of Thailand where hornbills once thrived. Dr Pilai said she believes the project can be a great success if the local communities play an active role. “Its absolutely key that the local villagers get involved and protect these birds until they can increase their numbers and establish good breeding sites”.

The Great hornbill (Buceros bicornis)

The Great hornbill (Buceros bicornis)

For more information visit: http://www.sc.mahidol.ac.th/research/hornbill.htm