Hornbill Conservation with the community – The Hornbill Volunteer Programme

Reputed to possess high levels of biodiversity, Belum-Temengor is one of the last remaining frontiers that support sizable populations of large birds such as hornbills.

During the second expedition in 1998 (at Sg. Tan Hain, Belum Forest Reserve), the identity of these Aceros hornbills was confirmed as the Plain-pouched Hornbills Aceros subruficollis. This confirmed the presence of a previously unrecorded species of hornbill in Malaysia, making Belum-Temengor one of the two sites in the country with 10 hornbill species to date.

Marking a new country record in 1999, the Plain-pouched Hornbill became a fascinating species needing attention, simply because the numbers in this biologically diverse site were unprecedented anywhere else in the world, putting Belum-Temengor on the map as one of global conservation importance.

This served as a catalyst for the MNS Hornbill Conservation Project which strives to gain knowledge and information on hornbills in order to conserve their home, the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.

The Hornbill survey was incepted in February 2004, made possible with the support from a number of grants and foundations, namely, Rufford Small Grant, Nagao Natural Environment Foundation, Asia Bird Fund, Leica-Forktail Award, British American Tobacco (Malaysia), Singapore Zoo and Sime Plantations Sdn Bhd. Although the hornbill survey focuses on the Plain-pouched Hornbill (Aceros subruficollis), other hornbill species were also noted of when observed during survey trips.

The Hornbill survey team led by Yeap Chin Aik, which consists of MNS staffs and experienced members, periodically make trips into Belum-Temengor to look for the magnificent creatures, engaging the local indigenous community to be involved in the surveys.

Large flocks of Plain-pouched Hornbills are observed flying across the Belum-Temengor skyline between July and November every year. In fact, in August 2004, about 1,000 Plain-pouched Hornbills have been sighted on a single sighting.

In August and September, the season for the Plain-pouched Hornbill, thousands of these birds flock in Temengor, perhaps in search of food. The reasons why they migrate here during certain times of the year are uncertain yet, which is the main reason for this programme – to answer the many unanswered questions as to why these birds are here.

Here volunteers help conduct the important daily flight census and be a part of a national conservation effort, aiding our staff and experienced members in collecting data. Hornbill census is conducted twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. This flight census will offer valuable information on population numbers which in turn will be used to advocate for the protection of Belum-Temengor, especially in addressing the logging threats.

It is hoped that the project will contribute towards understanding the ecology and biology of the globally threatened and near-threatened hornbills. Through this, it is hoped that the knowledge gained through the project will help to improve protection for the hornbills and its habitat.

Click here for the periodic updates on the programme.