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