Under a new USAID-funded research initiative, new information about the highly endangered Sulu hornbill will be finally brought to light to help boost conservation efforts to save what is touted as the rarest hornbill in the world from extinction, with only 27 individuals left in the wild based on a recent bird count.
The USAID’s Protect Wildlife project has partnered with the Philippines Biodiversity and Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PhilBio) to undertake the Sulu hornbill research project. Formal launching of the partnership was conducted in Panglima Sugala on January 16, 2020, and was attended by the municipal government, local partners from Tawi-Tawi province, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy. Through a public forum for local stakeholders and a puppet show for students, the event helped educate communities, research partners and the youth about the importance of protecting Panglima Sugala’s iconic bird.
Using established field methods for observing and characterizing wild birds and terrestrial habitats, the PhilBio team assesses the population and distribution of Sulu hornbill in the remaining forests of Upper Malum watershed in Panglima Sugala. Results of the field study will help strengthen efforts of local partners and communities in building awareness of and concrete actions to protect the Sulu hornbill. Moreover, they will reinforce efforts to declare Upper Malum as a local conservation area and garner support from multiple fronts to boost its protection as a critical habitat of the Sulu hornbill.
Historically, the presence of Sulu hornbill, which is locally known as tawsi, has been recorded in the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. But its range has shrunk dramatically to only a few fragmented habitats in Panglima Sugala as forests are cleared to make way for farming, settlements and mining. The USAID’s research support addresses the critical need for wildlife studies that will be fed into formulation of science-based policies and programs for effective conservation. (PWP/ Meg Yandoc)