Target: Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry
Goal: End the illegal slaughter and trade of endangered helmeted hornbills.
Thousands of rare, critically endangered birds are being killed in Indonesia and illegally traded for their valuable, ivory-like “helmets.” The helmeted hornbill is native to Southeast Asia and makes a profit for illegal poachers who sell the wedge of keratin, or the “helmet,” on top of the bird’s bill.
This substance is considered even more valuable than elephant ivory and is popular as a symbol of wealth in China due to its rareness and rich red color. The high demand has resulted in organized crime groups hiring locals in Sumatra and Borneo to shoot hornbills of every kind in the hopes that some of them will be the rare helmeted ones.
All of this illegal hunting caused the helmeted hornbill’s conservation status to change last November from near-threatened to critically endangered, only one step away from extinct. A recent study revealed that at least 500 helmeted hornbills were killed every month in Kalimantan, a province of Indonesia, meaning that approximately 6,000 are killed per year.
Even without being hunted, these extremely rare birds are already at risk from logging and other environmental factors. They only breed once a year, and during that time the female will seal herself into a tree cavity with her chick for up to five months while relying on the male to protect her and supply food. The loss of forest habitat has made this nesting method much more difficult for the helmeted hornbill, and since they only give birth to one chick at a time, it is a slow, difficult process to for the rapidly disappearing species to repopulate.
Hunting the helmeted hornbill is illegal under Chinese and Indonesia law, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species forbids commercial trade. In other words, this near-extinct bird should already be receiving the highest protections. The problem is black market trade and organized crime, which can only be stopped if the national laws are properly enforced. Sign the petition below to urge Indonesia’s government to step up law enforcement surrounding the illegal slaughter of this bird and save the helmeted hornbill from extinction.
Dear Minister Bakar,
The illegal hunting and trading of critically endangered helmeted hornbills in Indonesia must be stopped. These rare birds are protected under national and international law, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species forbids commercial trade. Yet organized crime groups have been hiring locals in Sumatra and Borneo to shoot hornbills in the hope of harvesting the valuable wedge of keratin on top of their bills. These “helmets” are considered even more valuable than elephant ivory in China due to their rareness, so poachers target these birds to make a profit.
According to a recent study, approximately 6,000 helmeted hornbills are killed per year in Kalimantan. They are also at risk from logging, as loss of forest habitat has had a negative on their breeding process which only occurs once a year and requires a large tree cavity for the female to nest with her chick for up to five months. Last November, their conservation status rocketed from near-threatened to critically endangered, and if illegal hunting activities are not stopped, they will face extinction.
I am urging you to increase efforts to enforce national law and put an end to the illegal slaughter of this rare bird. Please take action to stop poachers and protect the helmeted hornbill from extinction.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jean