Hornbill - A Symbol of Love

Blyth's Hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus) is a species of bird that lives in tropical rainforest of New Guinea (PNG and West Papua) and its surrounding islands. The indigenous people in Papua Barat region see the bird as Symbol of Love. A couple of hornbill is usually seen in trees or in the air. They find fruiting tree, or sit on the branch of a tree together. After mating, female Blyth's hornbill will get pregnant and later will lay her egg(s) in a hollow of a tree trunk. She will take care of baby until it is big enough to live by his or herself. During that time, male Blyth's hornbill fly to all corners of the forest to feed the mother and her baby. Fruits that Blyth's hornbill like to eat include nutmeg and ficus.

Local villagers in West Papua say that if one of the couple dies, the one that survives will live alone until the end of his or her life. Blyth's hornbill often fly in a group of 2, 4, or even more. Personally I used to see a huge group of hornbill, more than 30 of them, flying in the air. They usually fly to certain area of the forest to find fruits.

Blyth's hornbill (Rhyticeros plicatus)
Blyth's Hornbill in the forest of West Papua

Blyth's Hornbill is the only hornbill species in New Guinea and its surrounding islands. There are 57 species of hornbills in the world that are known to science.

In West Papua, Blyth's Hornbill is called burung taun-taun. This bird is considered as a very important seed disperser for the ecosystem of tropical rainforest. It eats fruits and releases its seeds every where in the forest. Blyth's hornbill, together with other birds and animals that spread seeds, play important roles in growing or expanding tropical forest. Although its population is still high, in recent years, its habitat is shrinking rapidly. Tropical rainforest in lowland and hills are being cut and converted into monoculture palm oil plantation, human settlements, roads. The rise in human population increases the needs for sawn wood. People have exploited wood from rainforest for along time.

Papuan blyth's hornbill
Papuan Blyth's Hornbill

When tropical rainforest is cut, its biodiversity is destroyed. So, it is not only the blyth's hornbill that is threatened but also the whole plants and animals that live in the forest.

Birdwatching as an ecotourism activity is one of the solutions that I offer to people in some villages in West Papua to help them preserve rainforest. Villagers will work as guides, porters, supplier of foods, cooks and providers of homestays. When local people can get economic benefits from birdwatching tourism, they will seriously protect their forest. Using the wealth of natural resources in the forest sustainably, villagers can improve their living condition, and alleviate poverty without having to destroy their forests.