The Red-knobbed Hornbill Rhyticeros cassidix and the Sulawesi Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides exarhatus are endemic to Sulawesi. This study assessed the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on these two species in Lambusango forest, Buton, south-east Sulawesi. Data were collected between 2005 and 2007 in six study sites which varied in their levels of disturbance. Two of the lightly disturbed and two of the more heavily disturbed sites were within ‘protection forest’ whereas the rest were classified as ‘production forest’. We used point counts with distance sampling to survey the hornbills. Habitat data were also collected at each of the points and related to hornbill ‘occupancy’ with the program PRESENCE. Both hornbills were estimated to be at higher density in the lightly disturbed forest but the level of disturbance had more of a detrimental effect on Red-knobbed Hornbill than on Sulawesi Tarictic Hornbill. Lightly disturbed forest had significantly more large trees than the heavily disturbed forest but there was no difference in the abundance of figs. Using four covariates (disturbance level, protection status, number of large trees, and number of figs), 99% of presence/absence of Red-knobbed Hornbills at the points could be explained by habitat disturbance and 87% by forest status; the same covariates explained 76% of presence/absence for the Sulawesi Tarictic Hornbill with abundance of large trees as the most important factor. These results support the notion that Red-knobbed Hornbill is more sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance and its conservation is highly dependent upon the preservation of forest habitats with low levels of disturbance.
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