Posted on August 1, 2017By Gregory McCann
Slaughter of magnificent birds in a contradictory culture
In 2011, a Taiwanese businessman named Hsien arrived in Indonesia with a plan to make himself rich and in the process to systematically wipe out one of the world’s most majestic and rarest birds, the helmeted hornbill, Rhinoplax vigil, also known as the “King Hornbill” in the provinces of Kalimantan and Sumatra.
He has made considerable progress. According to an article on the website Borneo Features titled “Planning a Path to Perdition,” middlemen were recruited to put out the word that there was someone willing to pay US$10 for the head of one helmeted hornbill. Over the next year, according to the article, the middlemen hired a network of people using cars, buses, motorcycles and boats, heading up the great rivers of Borneo, the Barito, Mahakam, Kapuas. In the interior of this vast island, they spent time talking to villagers, telling them they would come every three months to collect, and leaving their telephone numbers, no questions asked.” “I will come here every three months to collect.” “This is my phone number. You can call me if you have a good stock ready for collection, say at least 50 heads.”
Prices have skyrocketed since then, and the organized network of villagers hunting Helmeted Hornbills has expanded throughout all of Sumatra as well as Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand—the entire range for the species.