Thailand Hornbill Project, Part 2

By Christine Bui

In Thailand the Thailand Hornbill Project (THP) put me to task repairing hornbill nest cavities. I would wake up early in the morning and spend the majority of the day in the forest.

Our daily itinerary included waking up at 6 a.m. and leaving by 7a.m. for the park. By 7:30a.m. we were trekking through unmarked pathways in the forest, making our way to the nest site that we were going to repair and excavate for the day. By 8 a.m., we had setup our gear and started clearing a small section of the forest to allow us enough working room with our ropes to get to the nest.

Hundreds of feet in the air, using only ropes and harnesses to keep us safe, we diligently worked repairing and excavating the nest as needed to make it suitable and habitable for the hornbills. Once we were done, we would break for lunch, eating together to the sounds of the gibbons and forest animals around us. Each day when we were ready to leave, we would thank the tree and forest for allowing us to complete our work safely and wish that the repairs we completed will help rejuvenate the forest.

By 2 p.m., we’re back on the road at the national park scouting out nest sites to visit the next day and checking on the status of fig trees. We would also meet with the camera crew of Green Asia to suggest which nest sites they should camp out at to obtain video of hornbill behavior. By 4 or 5 p.m. we would leave the park for the evening.

Individuals and institutions such as Sacramento Zoo, have been able to provide artificial nest cavities to replenish those lost through logging. Hornbills play a huge role in replenishing the forest by defecating the fruit seeds they eat. Their survival helps ensure the survival of the forest and other forest animals for generations to come.

My true lesson learned is how much of an appreciation I have for 'field' researchers and biologists. As much as I like being outdoors, being surrounded by bugs and paranoid about diseases is just not my thing. I'm grateful for these researchers as they continue to play a vital role in our understanding of the world around us. They are probably the most educated, resourceful, and patient people I've met. How many of us can walk in the forest and know exactly which plant to eat/not to eat, what bird is near by the sound of their call, or how to track a hornbill based on feces? 

Upon completion of my DVM, I aim to incorporate the behavioral and ecology findings gathered from the THP into captive settings. I hope to create strategies that incorporate these findings to increase the breeding success of hornbills.

Nest is the dark spot near the top

Christine working in a tree

That's a person on the left side near the top, just where the greenery starts

Hornbills in a tree
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