Great horn­bill threat­ened by hun­gry hunters

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NAY AUNG nayaung@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

The rare bird is in dan­ger in Magwe Re­gion where poach­ers kill it for food and for sell­ing, de­spite a law pro­tect­ing the species with hunters li­able to up to seven years in prison.

GREAT horn­bill birds are in dan­ger of dy­ing out in Magwe Re­gion if noth­ing is done to curb the in­creas­ing rate at which they are il­le­gally hunted for food, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal youth group.

Salai Yan Naung Tun, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Yoma Youth or­gan­i­sa­tion, said hun­dreds of these rare, colour­ful birds, which call Magwe Re­gion home, are be­ing killed each year. He said the num­ber of dead birds found has rapidly in­creased over the past five years, while sight­ings of live birds have de­clined.

“At the cur­rent rate of hunt­ing, they will dis­ap­pear. Thou­sands have been killed in the last two or three years,” he said.

“They are typ­i­cally be­ing killed us­ing air guns and snares ... Most peo­ple hunt them for food,” he added.

In Magwe, the birds are mostly found in a num­ber of vil­lages in Ngape town­ship.

“[In these vil­lages] where peo­ple eat great horn­bill birds ... there is plenty of food, like in Gote Kyi [one of the hunt­ing vil­lages] where they are killing these birds just be­cause they taste good. We need to pre­vent this and take ac­tion on the mat­ter be­fore it’s too late,” said Ko O Lar, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Magwe-based Green Net­work Sus­tain­able En­vi­ron­ment Group.

Ac­cord­ing to Bird Life In­ter­na­tional, the great horn­bill pop­u­la­tion is “de­clin­ing mod­er­ately rapidly through­out its range” and is con­sid­ered “nearly threat­ened”. In Myan­mar, the bird is con­sid­ered scarce, with lo­cal pock­ets where it is more com­mon. The Great Horn­bills are na­tive to low­land for­est, and through­out their ter­ri­tory face habi­tat de­struc­tion due to log­ging and hu­man set­tle­ments.

The great horn­bill is one of 55 species of horn­bill and is found in other ar­eas of Myan­mar in­clud­ing parts of Chin and Rakhine states. It is con­sid­ered a sym­bol of the Chin eth­nic peo­ple.

In ad­di­tion to poach­ing the birds for food, peo­ple also hunt them to sell, even though the an­i­mal is pro­tected by law. The Myan­mar Times has seen horn­bills avail­able for sell at the ex­otic an­i­mal mar­ket in Mong La, Shan State. An av­er­age great horn­bill weighs around 2 viss (ap­prox­i­mately 3.2kg) and is sold for K4000 per viss.

Ac­cord­ing to the Forestry Act, any­one caught catch­ing, killing, hunt­ing, keeping or sell­ing any res­i­dent species of horn­bill is li­able to a prison sen­tence of seven years or a K50,000 fine.

Pre­vi­ous ef­forts have been made in the hill vil­lages of Ngape town­ship to stop peo­ple killing these birds but so far they have proved un­suc­cess­ful.

Photo: Nay Aung

The head of a great horn­bill is seen in Magwe Re­gion where poach­ing is threat­en­ing the bird’s pop­u­la­tion.

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