Zoologist determined to get Sarawakians to recognise Rhinoceros Hornbill as Sarawak Day nears


Teo says many Sarawakians still cannot distinguish the Rhinoceros Hornbill (right) from the Great Hornbill, which cannot be found in Sarawak.

KUCHING (June 24): Zoologist Jason Teo is determined to ensure Sarawakians can identify their own state bird — the Rhinoceros Hornbill — with Sarawak Day (July 22) fast approaching.

Teo, who began his campaign last year, said he noticed more people were starting to use the Rhinoceros Hornbill to represent Sarawak, instead of the Great Hornbill.

In a YouTube video posted on Tuesday, the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) and hornbill research team member, reminded Sarawakians that the Great Hornbill is not the state bird of Sarawak and pointed out it cannot even be found in the state.

“In Malaysia, the Great Hornbill can only be found in Peninsular Malaysia. The Rhinoceros Hornbill on the other hand, can be found in West Malaysia, Sarawak, and Sabah,” he said in a press release.

He pointed out three ways to distinguish the Rhinoceros Hornbill from the Great Hornbill by looking at their necks, wings, and casques.

“The Great Hornbill has a whitish yellow neck and wings, whereas the Rhinoceros Hornbill’s neck and wings are all black,” he said.

He also pointed out the Rhinoceros Hornbill’s casque protrudes outwards, hence its name, while the Great Hornbill’s casque does not protrude much.

The Rhinoceros Hornbill’s casque is a mixture of red, orange, and yellow, while the Great Hornbill’s casque is almost entirely yellow.

Teo hopes with greater awareness, Sarawakians will eventually learn to identify their own state bird.

“Many of us also cannot differentiate between the Rhinoceros Hornbill (found in Asia) and the Toco Toucan (found in South America). However, the difference between the two bird species will be explained at another time,” he said.

There are 10 species of hornbills in Malaysia, of which eight can be found in Sarawak.

Besides the Rhinoceros Hornbill, the other species that can be found in Sarawak are the Oriental Pied Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Black Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, and Helmeted Hornbill.

The Helmeted Hornbill is now critically endangered, meaning it is only two stages away from total extinction, due to habitat destruction and poaching.