KUCHING: The Sarawak Hornbill Conservation Programme will mark a five-year collaborative undertaking by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Hornbill Research Foundation (HRF) of Thailand.
The programme will ride on the Research for Intensified Management of Bio-rich Areas (Rimba) Sarawak platform and will include studies on hornbill population distribution, food trees, breeding grounds, nesting behaviours and tree phenology at sites such as Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Tanjung Datu National Park.
SFC and HRF yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to this effect at the opening ceremony of the 7th International Hornbill Conference (IHC) 2017.
The MoU was signed by SFC CEO Wong Ting Chung and Dr Woraphat Arthayukti representing HRF.
SFC deputy general manager of Protected Areas and Biodiversity Conservation Oswald Braken Tisen and renown hornbill researcher Prof Emeritus Dr Pillai Poonswad witnessed the signing ceremony. Second Minister of Urban Development and Natural Resources Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan representing Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg was also present.
Abang Johari highlighted the importance of hornbill conservation in light of the bird’s significance to the local culture and traditions.
“Conservation is a challenging and daunting task. Therefore, it is important that efforts need to be holistic, well-oriented and strategically thought out,” he said.
The state government is thus addressing the loss of habitat, which threatens the survival of many wildlife species by establishing at least one million hectares of Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) by 2020. So far, they have achieved 941,000ha of land and water territories under TPA.
“Conservation also requires commitment and effort from the public. If every one of us does our small bit, the accumulative effort could be far-reaching.”
Abang Johari cited Piasau Camp in Miri as an example of how the community rallied to save the resident hornbills, turning the area’s fate from a commercial and residential complex into Piasau Nature Reserve.
“Another example is the Ulu Menyang area which was licensed out for logging. Surveys found a population of orang utans in the remaining forested area, and in favour of conservation, the government canceled the logging licence. People in the area have benefited from the eco-tourism activities since.”
Abang Johari said this same concept could be applied to hornbills as well.
Pillai, who is known internationally as the ‘Great Mother of Hornbills’, delivered her keynote address titled ‘The Significance of Long-Term Research: Four Decades of Hornbill Studies’.
She spoke on the importance of long-term research, saying it took many years to accumulate data on things such as how a hornbill population responds to climate change or land-use practices.
She also described the lengths, or rather, the heights the team members had to go through in order to increase the hornbills’ chances of breeding, such as renovating tree holes or hauling up an artificial nest made of wine barrels.
IHC organising chairman Datu Jaul Samion, who is also deputy state secretary (Rural Transformation) was also present.
The IHC is being held in Malaysia for the first time, with over 200 delegates from 14 countries in attendance.
Thirty-six papers and 13 posters will be presented during the three-day programme, which began yesterday.
IHC is held every four years.