Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill Gets a Protection Boost in Thailand
March 17, 2021
Thailand has given the highest level of protection under the country’s law to the Critically Endangered Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), a species heavily targeted by poachers and traffickers for its ivory-like casque.
The hornbill will be added to the ‘Reserved Wild Animal’ list under Thailand’s primary wildlife law, the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act B.E 2562 (WARPA 2019). This is a list of rare or endangered wild animals offered the highest protection level and has the stiffest penalties for those convicted of hunting or selling them.
The decision was made on 8 March at the national wildlife conservation and protection meeting. The legal process to add the bird to this list is expected to be completed within a year.
Helmeted Hornbills were previously listed as ‘protected’: a separate category under Thai law that carries a jail term of at least 10 years or a fine of THB 1 million (about USD 32,700), or both for hunting or selling the animal. Once the upgraded protection takes effect, the penalties for hunting or selling Helmeted Hornbills will rise to 15 years in prison or a fine of up to THB 1.5 million (about USD 49,000), or both, upon conviction.
Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is listed as Critically Endangered (CR) in the IUCN Red List and listed in Appendix I of CITES*, which prohibits all commercial international trade of this species. They live in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, but they are extinct in Singapore. Their current population is decreasing. The species is heavily targeted by hunters and illegally traded for their highly prized solid horns or casques. The trade network is thought to be largely managed by organized crime, which means that trade pressure is likely to continue, eventually reaching every part of the species' range, and will be very difficult to control. (Source: IUCN Red List)
From 2010 – 2020, at least 3,697 Helmeted Hornbill casques, heads, and skulls were seized in 66 incidents by enforcement agencies in six countries and territories. Over the past decade beginning in 2010, reported seizures on Helmeted Hornbills have generally been on a downward path, with peaks recorded in 2013, 2016, and 2019. (Source: Traffic.org)