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Panay Eco-Social Conservation Project
Seed dispersing species,
hornbill conservation by PanayCon
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Meaning of seed dispersers like hornbills for the forest
Protection of hornbills and their nests in the wild
Enhancing breeding success of endangered hornbills
Successful hornbill release by PanayCon (formerly PESCP)

Meaning of seed dispersers like hornbills for the forest

Seed-dispersing species like hornbills and fruit bats feed on fruits of native species and distribute the seeds with their droppings. For very large fruits the Visayan warty pig is the most important seed disperser. Gut passage in addition to dispersal facilitates the germination of certain seeds. Fruit composition affects the duration of stay of seeds in the gut; this way the plant can manipulate dispersers to achieve dropping of seeds in an optimum average distance from the tree, in places where they germinate best (directly under the tree survival is reduced due to accumulation of species in the soil which harm the seedlings).
Mangan, S. A., Schnitzer, S. A., Herre, E. A., Mack, K. M. L., Valencia, M. C., Sanchez, E. I. & J. D. Bever (2010):
Negative plant–soil feedback predicts tree-species relative abundance in a tropical forest. Nature 466: 752-755.

Seed-dispersing species are ecologically important helpers in rainforest regeneration and reforestation and therefore need to be protected. Large-fruited tree species may vanish if they lose "their" disperser species with which they co-evolved. PanayCon protects such frugivore species.    Publications about seed dispersal.

                      with seed
                      golden-mantled flying fox
Visayan writhed-billed hornbill or Dulungan,
Aceros waldeni, with fruit
Photo: PanayCon
Little golden-mantled flying fox
Pteropus pumilis
Photo: S. Luft

                      fruit bats
Threat: a fruit bat hunter
Killed fruit bats

                      hacked open
A hornbill nest tree illegally cut down ...

... and the hole hacked into the trunk
for obtaining the birds
Photos: Christian Schwarz, PanayCon

Confiscation Tariktik
Confiscation of protected hornbills
Photo: Rey Elio, PanayCon
Female Visayan hornbill or tariktik in the rescue facility
feeding on Durum-on berries.
Photo: E. Curio

Protection of hornbills and their nests in the wild

In order to diminish losses by poaching and to increase the population size of seed dispersers, beside anti poaching measures ("rice for rifles") and alternative livelihood programs a veriety of measures have proven to be efficient.
Confiscated hornbills are treated by veterinarian Dr. Sanchez in our rescue facility, juvenile birds are reared, and after rehabilitation and a final health check the birds are released back to the wild.
Surveillance of nests of the large and particularly threatened dulungan (Aceros waldeni) by paid local people has proven to be extremely successful, with a reduction of losses from poaching (brood and sometimes also females killed) from 50% earlier to 5% since 2001. The nest guarding program provides an environmentally sustainable income for local people and has increased the number of breeding pairs.

Enhancing breeding success of endangered hornbills

Experience showed that, after logging of too many old rainforest trees, the remaining breeding pairs are competing for nest holes. Therefore, artificial hornbill nestboxes were developed and mounted. To slow rotting, the rather heavy nest boxes are made out of mahogany, a hardwood timber not native to the Philippines. By using wood of this locally grown alien tree species, regeneration of native hardwood tree species is indirectly supported.
One of the two hornbill species at stake has already nested several times in boxes thus hung up by PanayCon.

Climbing to nest box
PanayCon collaborator Sherwin Hembra, a Philippine hornbill researcher, climbing a rainforest tree to mount an artificial nest box for critically endangered hornbills

Attaching nest box
Sherwin and his helper attaching one of PanayCon´s artificial nest boxes 
to a tree 22 m above ground.

Photos: Anke Siegert, PanayCon

Successful hornbill release (1998 - 2005 - more birds have been released in the meantime)

A Visayan Tarictic male (Penelopides panini panini), confiscated as a fledgling and reared and trained by PanayCon staff, was gradually subjected to a 'soft release' and bonded up with a wild flock while gradually becoming independent of the food offered. This was the first of any hornbill releases. Until early 2005, 22 Tarictic Hornbills could be successfully released, equipped with transmitters for monitoring the success. The experience from these releases can help prepare the release of rehabilitated birds of an  even more threatened species, the Writhed-billed Hornbill or Dulungan, in the future. Meanwhile, not only survival of the released Tarictics but also successful breeding with a wild mate can be reported. Furthermore, pair formation of releasees in the wild occurred soon upon release. In addition, nest boxes were offered by PanayCon in the forests around the station, and since 2002 are accepted by wild Tarictics for breeding .
(The rehabilitation and release program was sponsored by Frankfurt Zoological Society and IDEXX,  and still is by Association for Bird Conservation and Aviculture (AZ) and the Bird Protection Committee.).

Taken from:

- E. Curio (1998):  The first 'soft release' of a juvenile Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides panini panini).   Publication No. 19 of the Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project (PESCP) of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. Report compiled from records of Fel C. Cadiz, Benjamin 'June' Tacud, Henry Urbina and Eberhard Curio.

- Lichtblicke für die Natur (2003): Newsletter, Stiftung bedrohte Tierwelt (Foundation for Endangered Wildlife).  Frankfurt Zoological Society (German, authored by E. Curio: Highlights of Progress for Nature).

Recommended literature:

Margoluis, R., Salafsky, N. & Balla, A. (Illustrator), 1998: Measures of success: Designing, managing, and monitoring conservation and development projects. Island Press. ISBN: 1559636122  (Paperback, 363 pages)

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Panay Eco-Social Conservation Project  -  Conservation Biology Unit, Ruhr-University Bochum
Last amendment: 9 June 2013