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Philippine Hornbills Conservation Programme

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CooperPlate - A. waldeni

Philippine Hornbills Conservation Programme

The Philippines supports an unusually high number of endemic hornbills, with at least eleven species and six subspecies being generally recognised (e.g. del Hoyo and Collar; Gonzalez et al 2013). Various other important changes are also proposed such as the re-assignment of both Aceros species to the Genus Rhabdotorrhinus, along with the (similarly formerly recognised) Sulawesi tarictic (P. exarhatus) thereby re-defining Penelopides as a Philippine endemic genus comprising no less than six species and four subspecies.

All that apart, all species of Philippine hornbills were already regarded as threatened by IUCN/BirdLife International. Philippines (even before these changes) was distinguished by having many more seriously threatened endemic hornbills than any other country. These included the world’s two most endangered hornbills: Visayan writhed hornbill (Aceros = Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni) and the Sulu hornbill (Anthracoceros montani) – not to mention the first human-induced extinction of any hornbill, i.e. the Ticao Island tarictic (P. p. ticaensis).

In response to this situation, the ‘Philippines Hornbills Conservation Programme (PHCP)’ was conceived and initiated under the auspices of the ‘Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Programme (PBCP)’ in 1994. The PHCP was formally inaugurated and endorsed by the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR, Govt. of the Philippines) via the signing of a covering Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DENR, the North of England Zoological Society (NEZS, Chester Zoo, UK) and Vogelpark Avifauna (VA, Netherlands) in June 2002. By these means, NEZS and VA have provided crucial institutional, technical and funding assistance for the PHCP over the past 10-12 years; without which assistance this Programme would not have been possible.

Since then, a suite of inter-related projects focused on and around each of the most threatened taxa; especially the Visayan, Polillo, Mindoro and (with some difficulty owing to periodic local political unrest) Sulu hornbills. Relevant activities have included distribution-wide field status and ethnobiological surveys, wide-ranging education/awareness campaigns, assistance in the development of new protected areas, pioneering habitat restoration and local community forest schemes, diverse local personnel training, conservation breeding and other institutional capacity building initiatives.

Rediscovery of Rufous-headed hornbill Aceros waldeni – supposed extinct on Negros Island

Surveys conducted from 2010-2014 have verified and evaluated the conservation status of hornbills in Calamianes group of Islands, Polillo group of Islands, Mt. Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindoro, Camiguin Sur and in Negros Island. With the support from Biodiversity Partnership Project (BPP) and Chester Zoo, PBCFI was able to validate the presence of populations of Rufous-headed hornbill (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni) in Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP) and in Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park. A total of five individuals (two males and three females) of Rufous-headed hornbill were seen in Mt. Silay mountain range in Northern Negros Natural Park. Reports of the presence of the bird (one male and two females) in Balinsasayaw Twin Lakes Natural Park from visiting birdwatchers but visits to the forests did not merit observations of the species. Out of the 12 remaining forests areas surveyed, only Northern Negros Natural Park has confirmed reports of the species’ presence. The Visayan Tarictic hornbill on the other hand had been recorded in all 12 forests patches visited. The species appear to be persistent and to some extent tolerates badly degraded forests as long as there are tall trees.

CooperPlate - P. paniniHornbills Population Monitoring Study

Following the discovery of Rufous-headed hornbill, PBCFI in collaboration with DENR, local government units and Bantay Bukid Brigade (community forest guards) established hornbill-monitoring trails in Northern Negros Natural Park, Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (and Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park by 2016). The Biodiversity Partnership Project of DENR – UNDP GEF, Chester Zoo, Virginia Zoo and the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), supports this initiative.

 A similar initiative is planned for Mindoro hornbill in collaboration with Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCFI), Palawan hornbill in Calamian Group of Islands and for Luzon Tarictic hornbill subspecies subnigra in Polillo Islands with Polillo Islands Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PIBCFI).