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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Helmeted Hornbill © Muhammad Alzahri

Helmeted Hornbill © Muhammad Alzahri

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Published 11th November 2020

Huge seizure of Helmeted Hornbill casques and other wildlife parts in Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia, 11th November 2020—Indonesian authorities have seized dozens of Helmeted Hornbill casques in the first such case reported there this year. The discovery reasserts the danger to the Helmeted Hornbill from illegal trade in their solid, ivory-like bill casques which are carved into jewellery and decorative items. 


A week ago, the team comprising the Aceh Regional Police and GAKKUM (the Law Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry) detained two men—believed to be a trader and his driver—in Central Aceh with 71 Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil casques, 28 kg of Sunda Pangolin Manis javanica scales along with the whole skin and bones of a Sumatran Tiger Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae. All three are listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered. 

We congratulate the people and agencies that made this seizure. The range and variety of high-value illegal wildlife products involved suggests a wider collection and distribution network at play locally and even internationally. We look forward to more in-depth investigations and a crackdown on this trafficking ring.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

In 2015, due to the severe increase in poaching for the illegal trade, the Helmeted Hornbill was reclassified from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

From 2010–2017 an estimated 2,878 Helmeted Hornbill parts were seized. Subsequent seizures by Indonesian and Malaysian authorities have raised the total to at least 3,188 since 2010. 

The largest seizure in recent times was made by the Sarawak Forest Corporation in October 2019 when 148 Helmeted Hornbill casques and pieces were confiscated in a raid, along with pangolin scales, bear bile and other wildlife products.  

Indonesia is a key source country in this trade, responsible for a significant proportion of the seizures made along the trade chain, which are largely destined for international markets. 

Helmeted Hornbill seizure data over the past decade include two other Indonesian incidents with pangolin scales, both of which occurred in West Kalimantan. Two suspects were arrested in each case; they were sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment and a IDR10 million fine (USD723), and 9 months imprisonment and an IDR50 million (USD3,560) fine respectively.  

In August 2018, a ten-year Conservation Strategy and Action Plan to safeguard the Helmeted Hornbill was launched. The elimination of trafficking and trade, reducing demand in current consumer markets—China, Hong Kong, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic—and safeguarding the species in its range states of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, are among its key priorities.