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PhilinCon’s nest guarding program for the Critically Endangered Walden’s Hornbill or Dulungan (Rhabdotorrhinus waldeni) 2001 – 2019



Walden’s Hornbill, locally known as Dulungan or Talarak (Rh. waldeni Sharpe, 1877) is a Western Visayas endemic. Once found on Negros, Guimaras, and Panay, the species is now extinct on Guimaras and functionally extinct on Negros. The last viable population is confined to less than 10 percent of forest in the Central Panay Mountain Range. These populations were also targeted by the pet trade. A nest guarding program was started in 2001, involving the hiring of former poachers and other locals regularly patrolling the forests in the provinces of Antique and Aklan. They were paid an incentive per successfully fledged nest. Validation at the time was random. The nest wardens were organized by Community Conservationists, and trained by 4 Educators. The latter also randomly validated the nests. This approach proved to be a very useful conservation tool, leading to a constant increase in successfully fledged nests, from 31 in 2002 to 1350 in 2009. The increase was both due to the addition of new nests and decreased poaching. The regular nest guarding program was discontinued in 2010 due to the departure of a major donor, but small grants still allowed irregular payments for most of the nest wardens in Antique. A large-scale program funded by the Philippine government was re-assumed in 2018, with all of northern Antique and adjacent parts of Aklan included. This improved approach included the pre- and postvalidation of each nest by our team of forest rangers, including information such as GPS coordinates, tree species, and sympatric fauna. So far, 1084 successful broods have been validated, guarded by 122 nest wardens from 9 barangays. Nests from the eastern part of the CPMR are not yet included in the count. The addition of these nests is a target for the 2020 season. Despite criticisms of nest guarding being financially not “sustainable”, this conservation tool proved the best so far in preserving Walden’s Hornbill from extinction. As a side effect, awareness for conservation aspects in general has greatly risen in the communities participating in this project.
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... Local non-governmental organisations' conservation programs such as nest guarding and employment of former poachers as wardens, have had positive results in the provinces of Antique, Aklan, and Palawan (Katala Foundation, n.d.; Schwarz and Curio, 2019). ...
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The hornbills are a group of charismatic bird species occurring in Asia and Africa. Dubbed the “farmers of the forest”, these birds contribute to natural forest regeneration by acting as seed dispersers. The hornbill diversity in the Philippines includes 15 taxa, some of which are the most endangered in the world. Aside from habitat loss, hornbills are also threatened by hunting for wild meat, cultural objects, sport hunting, and live bird trade. The Philippine laws protect all wildlife, and possession, trade or transportation of wildlife is highly controlled. Despite these laws and regulations, hornbills have been observed for sale in the lucrative and ever-growing online wildlife trade. TRAFFIC conducted online bird trade surveys on Facebook, the preferred platform of wildlife traders in the Philippines, for the past five years (2018–2022) to gather information on hornbills offered for sale. This has been a relatively undocumented threat in the Philippines and will provide important insights as part of TRAFFIC’s long-term commitment to combat the illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines. A total of 143 live hornbills representing nine taxa were offered for sale in 76 posts by 55 unique Facebook accounts between 2018– 2022. More than half of endemic hornbills in the trade were nestlings or about to fledge. The Luzon Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides manillae (73% of all individuals) was the most recorded species in the online trade. Two-thirds of traders recorded were in central Luzon (Region III, IV-A, and National Capital Region [NCR]) and likely wild-sourced hornbills within or nearby provinces. Seizure records during the same period recorded 66 hornbills seized in 24 incidents. The quantity of hornbills in trade and seizure incidents peaked in 2019 within the study period.
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