Helmeted hornbills endangered by poachers


This video says about itself:

14 February 2016

Indonesia is home to thirteen hornbill species, three of which are endemic. This makes Indonesia the richest and the most important country for hornbill conservation in the world.

Hornbills are the largest and most effective seed disperser agent in Asia’s tropical rainforests and they are forest dependent. Among Asian hornbills, the Helmeted hornbill is the most unique species starting from species life requirement and features a solid casque that has been recognized for its ivory-like quality. It is the only Hornbill in the world which has this feature.

From Wildlife Extra:

Ivory poachers driving rare bird to extinction

By Nigel Collar, 28 Sep 2016

A sudden explosion of demand for the Helmeted Hornbill’s casque as “ivory” is plunging the species to extinction at frightening speed. Yesterday the government of Indonesia once again explained the issue during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – a gathering of 182 nations currently underway in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Perhaps the single most iconic bird species in what remains of the great dipterocarp forests of the Greater Sundas (Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo) has suddenly been discovered to be plunging at frightening speed towards extinction. In November 2015, BirdLife placed the Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil on the IUCN Red List in the highest category of threat: Critically Endangered. The reason: a sudden explosion of demand for the “ivory” that its casque (the “horn” on the top of its bill) uniquely possesses.

At 1.5 metres long the Helmeted Hornbill is the largest of its kind in Asia; but this is the least of its remarkable features. It has a surprisingly short, spiky bill, a thick, carunculated bare neck which is deep red in the male and whitish in the female, as well as much the longest tail of any hornbill, with wonderful black and white central feathers greatly prized by the indigenous peoples of the forest.

It also has a very striking sheer-fronted casque rising over the front of its head. Other hornbill casques are ornamental and hollow, but the casque of the Helmeted Hornbill has evolved into a weapon of sorts. “Very striking” is an apt term, because the casque is used in rarely seen aerial jousts in which two birds fly from a treetop in opposite directions, circle round and swoop at each other, cracking their casques together in mid-air in a spectacular contest for supremacy. Casque-butting has been thought to be an elaborate ritual for deciding who gets to stay in a tree to eat its fruit, but it may be more to do with wider territoriality and is perhaps closely related to pair bond reinforcement.

Whatever the explanation, these contests have evidently driven the evolution of the solid front to the casque of the Helmeted Hornbill; old males develop particularly awesome structures. For millennia, indigenous people in the Sundaic rainforests have used the casques of hunted birds to carve various kinds of ornament; when these were traded with Chinese merchants over a thousand years ago, the interest in China in hornbill “ivory” was ignited.

Chinese craftsmen, working within an oral tradition that has left no trace of their techniques, made use of hornbill ivory to carve the most exquisite pieces, engraving them with traditional scenes and themes. Items from buckles to snuff boxes were made from the material; as a demonstration of their sheer genius, some of the carvers left the casque on the head of the bird, producing the most breathtakingly elaborate miniature scenes. The nineteenth century western craze for chinoiserie resulted in hornbill ivory products also being exported to Europe and America.

But the trade dwindled in the early twentieth century, while the Second World War seemed to kill it off completely. There was no evidence of any external trade during the second half of the century although, perhaps as a precaution, the Helmeted Hornbill was placed on Appendix I of CITES from the first implementation of the convention in 1975. BirdLife treated it as threatened in 1988, owing to fears over habitat loss, but further evaluation indicated that Near Threatened was a more suitable listing; it remained in this category from 1994 until the end of 2015.

But two years ago Yokyok Hadiprakarsa, an independent hornbill research expert based in Indonesia, began to uncover evidence that the species was the target of a new clandestine trade for its “ivory”. His further research, using Asian trading websites, now reveals that the demand for hornbill artefacts, far more crudely carved than in centuries past, suddenly took off in 2011, feeding a new interest among the Chinese nouveau riche. His work in West Kalimantan, checking on reports of confiscations and talking to villagers, foresters and officials, suggested that in 2012–2013 as many as 500 Helmeted Hornbills were being hunted in the province every month, a rate of 6,000 birds a year. The heads were then being smuggled to major ports in Sumatra and Java and thence to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Separate studies by the Environmental Investigation Agency and by TRAFFIC South-East Asia have now confirmed the scale of the slaughter in Indonesia. The arrest this year of smugglers in Sumatra, in part to the credit of Indonesian staff of the Wildlife Conservation Society, has also indicated how wide and how fast the network of criminal gangs has spread in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo, with local hunters being recruited to go into the forest and shoot down every large hornbill in the hope that it would prove to be Helmeted. All the evidence suggests that this trade is simply an extension of the illegal trafficking of other wildlife products, as well as in drugs and other illicit goods, being conducted with ruthless efficiency across Indonesia’s two great islands.

BirdLife has moved as fast as possible to lend its support to the international conservation response that is clearly urgently needed to address this crisis. First, it conducted an emergency evaluation of the Helmeted Hornbill’s threat status. The new evidence concerning the pervasiveness of poaching in Indonesia, including reports from seasoned bird tour leaders that the species has suddenly become much harder to find, were obviously decisive; but the facts that the birds have such a low reproductive rate, with the female sealing herself into the nest cavity for around five months, and that killing the male who feeds her in the nest will certainly cause the chick’s death and possibly also the female’s, clearly also mean that populations will be unable to recover for many years. Moreover, the large emergent trees which bear the cavities in which the species habitually nests are commonly the target for logging operations. If being listed now as Critically Endangered has one consolation, it is that the species becomes eligible for support from a number of charitable sources.

The second step BirdLife took, through its regional division and national Partners, was to join forces with a group of conservationists in South-East Asia who are developing a plan of campaign to bring the crisis to world attention and to promote all possible measures to resolve it.

The group will be seeking to achieve a range of objectives: to promote awareness among consumers of both the illegality and the impact of the trade; to arouse expressions of concern by range states; to raise support from high profile sympathisers; to increase vigilance and activity by enforcement agencies at all levels; to involve NGO-backed protection units operating for other charismatic animals targeted by poachers; to create hornbill guardians among local citizenry; and to develop nest adoption schemes and community incentives for conservation.

To date, the gangs appear not to have moved into Malaysia or southern Thailand, but it is surely only a matter of time. Heading them off, while spiking their guns in Indonesia, is going to be a major undertaking in 2016; one for which the newly formed Helmeted Hornbill Working Group will need all the help it can enlist.

Saving endangered Philippines oriole, other wildlife


Isabela oriole

From BirdLife:

Sanctuary declared for elusive oriole once believed extinct

By Alex Dale, 29 Sep 2016

With its yellow and olive-green plumage perfectly camouflaging it against the tree canopies, the Isabela Oriole Oriolus isabellae, a lowland forest specialist endemic to the island of Luzon in the Philippines, doesn’t intend for itself to be seen by humans. And unfortunately, for many decades it wasn’t.

Due to the rapid and widespread deforestation which has plucked Luzon of much of its forest cover (down as much as 83% since the 1930s in some areas), numbers of this little-known species plummeted such that for a time until its rediscovery in December 1993, it was widely believed to have gone extinct.

Today we know there are still a few small populations clinging to survival, but the species is still at dire risk of extinction due to the ongoing loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat. In recent years Isabela Oriole has been recorded in only five scattered locations throughout the island, and with an estimated population of just 50-249 adults remaining, it richly deserves its current IUCN Red List rating of Critically Endangered.

Due to its scarcity, little is known about the Isabela Oriole’s feeding and nesting habits, and even its call was not officially recorded until 2003. However, the species finally received some much-needed visibility thanks to a project made possible through funding and support from the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP).

Project ORIS (a contraction of the Isabela Oriole’s scientific name) sees a team of young conservationists partner with Isabela State University and the Mabuwaya Foundation to secure the species’ survival. The project’s objective is to survey all remaining areas of suitable habitat on Luzon, create a conservation strategy and launch an awareness-raising campaign for the elusive bird, including promoting it as a flagship species for the remaining forests that are essential to the long-term survival of both it and various other species that share its dwindling habitat.

The project was set in motion in 2012 when the team received a Future Conservationist Award from the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), a grant that enables young conservationists to undertake projects across Africa, Asia & the Pacific, South America and Eurasia. The programme works to build the leadership capacity of young conservation professionals working on important habitats and species in places with limited capacity. A partnership between BirdLife International, Flora & Fauna International and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the programme goes beyond grant giving because of its support and mentoring, alumni network and inclusion of valuable stakeholder and community interaction in all successful projects.

Several years of painstaking efforts from those involved with the ORIS Project paid off this August when local officials in Santa Margarita in the municipality of Baggao declared a 5,500-hectare tract of forest as a wildlife sanctuary. The declaration will protect habitat critical not only to the Isabela Oriole, but also to other threatened endemic species, including the spectacular Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi. This iconic bird of prey, one of the world’s largest raptors, has also benefited from CLP support in the past.

This showcases the real and long-term impact the CLP programme can have, not only in terms of conservation objectives, but also in the capacity building of young conservationists and organisations. The CLP offers grants and support to numerous projects every year, with 18 projects successfully applying for grants in the 2016 cycle, with target species ranging from dugongs in Mozambique to cloud forest frogs in Mexico.

Many BirdLife Partners have been able to carry out vital work thanks to grants from the CLP in recent years. The CLP’s focus is on building the conservation capacity of individuals from low-income, biodiversity-rich countries where the need and potential for impact is greatest, and 80% of eligible countries within the BirdLife partnership have previously received grants. Thanks to CLP’s input, great strides have been made in the conservation of Critically Endangered species such as the Araripe Manakin (Antilophia bokermanni) in Brazil and Liben Lark (Heteromirafra archeri) in Ethiopia.

The programme is now accepting proposals for 2017. The project countries supported are currently: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Oman, South Africa, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, UAE and Vietnam. The full team is not required to be from these countries – for the full list of eligibility criteria, visit the CLP grants page.

There are three levels of conservation team awards:

Future Conservationist Awards: Up to $12,500 per project.
Conservation Follow-Up Awards: Up to $20,000 per project and available only to previous CLP Future Conservationist Award winners.
Conservation Leadership Awards: Up to $40,000 per project and available only to previous CLP Follow-Up Award winners.

Award winners get additional support to implement their project with a two-weeks training. Each project sends a team member for this event and is thereafter expected to train their team on conservation leadership and management modules ranging from project planning to stakeholder behaviour change to mention a few.

The application deadline for ALL awards is the 28th November 2016.

Those applying for either a Conservation Follow-Up Award or Conservation Leadership Award must submit a Logical Framework and the Final Report of their previous CLP project by 17th October 2016. If the Logical Framework and Final Report are satisfactory, the team will be notified of this by 31st October 2016, and can afterwards submit by the 28th November 2016.

This video says about itself:

29 September 2016

Fresh out of Conservation Leadership & Management training, three young African conservationists tells us about their experiences and plans for their projects…

Lyndre Nel, 25, from Cape Town, South Africa
She is working with her team to protect the endangered flora of the Papenkuils Wetland, Western Cape, South Africa

Gelica Eugenio Inteca, 26, from Mozambique
Dugongs are on of the most difficult animals to observe in the wild. Gelica’s project aims to find them in Quirimbas National Park, and to work with fishermen to increase awareness and protection.

Ezequiel Fabiano, 36, from Angola
He is working with his team to conduct wildlife and threats inventories of the Luenge-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks, and improve their management.

All thanks to projects and training provided by the Conservation Leadership Programme, a joint initiative between BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Butterflies, other wildlife, of Pitztal, Austria


This 2016 video is about butterflies, and other wildlife like birds and tadpoles, of the Pitztal valley in Austria.

Record number of migrating spoonbills


This video from Belgium says about itself:

Migration: spoonbills – Fonteintjes, Zeebrugge, 29/03/14

Group of spoonbills migrating over land, hesitating to land on the pools next to the counting station.

According to Dutch site Trektellen.nl, on 27 December 2016 844 spoonbills, migrating to the south, passed the Digue de Malo near Dunkirk in France.

This is a record number.

American fish crows build decoy nest


This video from the USA says about itself:

28 September 2016

Fish Crows noisily go about the business of building a huge nest of twigs high in a long-leaf pine tree. They did such a good job of hiding this huge nest near the crown of the tree that I had to bushwhack my way back in the Jungle just to get an angled view of it. But the nest was never used and further research brings me to the conclusion that I was duped by a decoy nest! We all know crows are extremely intelligent – did you know they are known to build decoy nests and keep their real nest very private. That explains why they were so noisily and obviously building this one to attract attention to it while they quietly built another nest nearby.

I had plans to film the raising and fledging of their young, but they are too smart for that. If I’m watching them then they are watching me! I found this interesting quote by musician Tom Waits that relates to this event: “I saw a crow building a nest, I was watching him very carefully, I was kind of stalking him and he was aware of it. And you know what they do when they become aware of someone stalking them when they build a nest, which is a very vulnerable place to be? They build a decoy nest. It’s just for you.”

So in a way I feel honored!

Young red-headed woodpecker visits owls’ nest in Georgia, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker Stops in Savannah – Sept. 27, 2016

Notice the stocky medium-sized build and bold white patch on the secondary feathers that contrasts with the black of the wing and back? These identifiers provide a great chance to use size and shape along with color and pattern to identify this bird as a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker!

This young woodpecker came to the same owls’ nest where a wood stork visited as well.

Golden plovers in the evening light


This September 2016 video shows golden plovers in the evening light. These birds have migrated from the Arctic to Zeeland province in the Netherlands.