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Trade in the Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil: the ‘ivory hornbill’


Demand for the ‘ivory’ casques of the Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil appears to have risen very sharply, although the species is legally protected in every range state (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand) and it is on Appendix I of CITES. Seizure records and other sources indicate that the majority of hornbills are being killed in Indonesia on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and smuggled to China where the casques are carved for commercial sale. Between March 2012 and August 2014 a minimum 2,170 heads and/or casques were seized from the illegal trade in Indonesia and China in identifiable enforcement actions. Seizures were made from poachers, smugglers, processing facilities and retailers (both physical shops and online traders). Thirteen seizures occurred in Indonesia in which no fewer than 1,117 specimens were confiscated. In China, 18 seizures resulted in the confiscation of 1,053 specimens. Anecdotal evidence suggests the species is now rare in Indonesia but that demand, reflected in the high prices involved, will not soon abate. Efforts are therefore urgently needed to end this illegal trade, which is controlled by organised crime with interests in other wildlife products, to advertise the penalties for transgressors, and to create awareness of the law and the plight of the species among potential consumers.

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