KUCHING, 16 MAY 2017 – Sarawak is set to embark on a comprehensive hornbill conservation programme. This was announced during the opening ceremony here today of the 7th International Hornbill Conference (IHC) by the Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Haji Abdul Rahman Zohari Tun Datuk Abang Haji Openg. On hand to officiate the opening of the international conference on behalf of the Chief Minister was Datuk Amar Haji Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, Deputy Chief Minister, Second Minister of Urban Development and Natural Resources as well as Minister of Industrial and Entrepreneur Development. Also in attendance at the event were  the Deputy State Secretary (Rural Transformation), Datu Jaul Samion and Dr. Pilai Poonswad of Thailand who is known world-wide as the ‘Great Mother of the Hornbills’.

The Sarawak Hornbill Conservation Programme will be a 5-year collaborative undertaking by SARAWAK FORESTRY Corporation (SFC) and the Hornbill Research Foundation (HRF) of Thailand. This programme was launched at the IHC opening with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SFC and HRF; the collaborators being represented by Chief Executive Officer, Wong Ting Chung and President, Dr. Woraphat Arthayukti respectively. The programme will ride on the RIMBA SARAWAK (Research for Intensified Management of Bio-rich Areas) platform and will include studies on hornbill population distribution, food trees, breeding grounds, nesting behavior and tree phenology at RIMBA sites such as Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Tanjung Datu National Park.

Abang Zohari, in his speech highlighted the importance of hornbill conservation in view of the bird’s significance to Sarawak’s culture and traditions as well as its critical role in the protection of forests and wildlife.

Touching on the challenging tasks of biodiversity conservation, the Chief Minister highlighted the need for concerted efforts of government agencies as well as the scientific and local communities to achieve meaningful results. He also listed various State initiatives and projects, namely, establishment of Totally Protected Areas, Heart of Borneo Project, RIMBA SARAWAK and cited cases of successful community involvement in conservation such as those manifested by Piasau Nature Reserve and community-based ecotourism at Ulu Menyang area.

Datu Jaul Samion in his capacity as Organizing Chairman of the 7th IHC also spoke at the event. He explained the rationale for the conference theme, Hornbills: “Fly Free, Fly High!” and explained the challenges of conducting hornbill conservation, especially in terms of funding.

The International Hornbill Conference is organised every four years and this 7th edition involving about 200 delegates from 14 countries is the first to be hosted by Malaysia. This 3-day conference is jointly organised by SFC, Sarawak Convention Bureau (SCB), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Cat City Holidays. A total of 36 papers and 13 posters will be presented at the conference whereat presentations would revolve around four sub-themes: Conservation Status of Hornbills: Threats, Thread and Population; Biology and Husbandry; Habitat Fragmentation and Connectivity and Importance of Hornbills: Ecosystem, Culture, Tourism and Awareness.