About the Organization
Hornbills are among the world’s most charismatic birds, thanks to their large size, bright colors and elaborately-structured bills. In Southeast Asia they
occupy an important ecological niche as builders of rainforests, by consuming a wide variety of fruit and then dispersing the seeds throughout the
forest. It is said that the forests need the hornbill as much as the hornbills need the forests! Hornbills are also known for their fascinating social
relationships and unique nesting behavior. The female bird is walled up inside a hollow tree cavity by the male to protect the nest while she raises
their offspring; she and her chicks are entirely dependent on her mate to deliver food during this time. Hornbills maintain strong pair bonds and stay
together year after year, returning to the same nest site to raise their young. The Hornbill Nest Project helps them succeed in forest environments
that are increasingly under threat.
The Conservation Challenge
Deforestation is a serious problem throughout Southeast Asia, and Thailand is no exception. Forests are cleared to make way for agriculture, and illegal
logging continues at an alarming pace. Hornbills’ unique nesting behavior and preference for large hardwood trees makes them particularly vulnerable
- nest sites and female birds with young can be destroyed by logging, burning and clear-cutting of forests, and the loggers may not even be aware
of the hornbills’ presence.
The Pet Trade
Charismatic bird species are especially vulnerable to poaching for the pet industry. Illegal wildlife trafficking has a devastating impact on animal
welfare, species conservation, and ecosystems. Second to habitat loss, it is a major cause of species extinction in the wild. Ninety percent of
smuggled animals die in transit, and those that survive need constant care and often are unable to return to the wild if taken away from their
mothers at a young age.
Nest Protection and Monitoring
The Hornbill Nest Adoption Project works with rural communities in southern Thailand to protect hornbills from poaching and deforestation, by employing
villagers as “nest guardians”. To date, more than 250 nests have been adopted, including naturally occurring nests as well as nests constructed and
installed by the project. The project provides a financial incentive for local people (some of whom used to be poachers for the illegal pet trade),
and also instills a sense of pride in local communities as they become stewards of the forest and its unique wildlife. In addition to providing protection,
nest guardians also monitor the hornbill nests and provide valuable data for researchers.
Community Education Programs
The Hornbill Nest Project is part of the Hornbill Research Foundation, which has established the Budo Hornbill Conservation and Education Center to
reach out to local people and build a strong foundation for forest and wildlife conservation in rural communities. Their Youth Education Program
includes “We Love Hornbills” nature camps and a nation-wide Hornbill Painting Competition. The project provides teacher training and produces educational
exhibitions, booklets, and multi-media video and slide presentations for both adults and children, to help local residents better understand the
importance of the forest to their lives and the urgent need for conservation. Local people also have the opportunity for training as guides and
field assistants for hornbill research, and can benefit from the project’s support of handicraft sales at the Budo Education Center.
Research and Collaboration
The project’s current research focus includes surveying the range and status of hornbill populations throughout Thailand, and studying the biology
and ecology of endangered hornbill species. The Hornbill Research Foundation recently formed a partnership with HUTAN in Malaysian Borneo to
exchange knowledge and conservation strategies that can benefit the hornbill population in northern Borneo, another important Asian habitat
for these amazing birds.
Oakland Zoo Takes Action
Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Grant has provided funds for the Hornbill Nest Adoption Project. Funding sent to this project helps the Hornbill Research Foundation
collect data on the biological and ecological aspects of these birds, as well as supporting the nest guardian program.
Outreach and Education
Oakland Zoo connects to our public through docent tours and stations, special events and a variety of outreach and education programs with messages
about hornbills and other Asian wildlife.
Our teen eco-tour to Thailand spent time with the Hornbill Nest Project, gaining invaluable insight into the conservation challenges facing the human
and wildlife populations of Southeast Asia.
Oakland Zoo’s gift shop sells crafts made by the artisans who work with the Hornbill Nest Project.
You Can Take Action Too
- Email Amy Gotliffe to donate to Oakland Zoo’s funding efforts for the Hornbill Nest Project.
- When traveling, always buy locally-made goods so that the local communities can benefit directly from the wildlife they live next to, and be inspired
to protect it.
- Speak out against the exotic pet trade and never keep wild animals as pets.
- See photos and learn more about the Hornbill Nest Project.
- Learn more about hornbills and forest conservation at Oakland Zoo, and share what you have learned with others.
- Support the project by purchasing hornbill art and items at Oakland Zoo’s gift shop.