Singapore Birders’ Contribution to the Discovery and Conservation of the Plain-pouched Hornbill in Peninsular Malaysia

A Pair of Plain-pouched Hornbills (female with blue pouch)  Photo: Jimmy Chew

A Pair of Plain-pouched Hornbills (female with blue pouch) Photo: Jimmy Chew

This recent article by Yeap, C. A. et al in the Malayan Nature Journal on the Plain-pouched Hornbill traces and summarises the great and conscientious efforts by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) towards the protection of this species which occurs in massive numbers in the Belum-temengor Forest Complex from the nineties to 2012.

Singaporean birders may be interested to know that it was Sutari who was the first birder to have discovered the massive flight of the Plain-pouched Hornbill in Peninsular Malaysia — in 1992 at the  Temengor area, along the upper reaches of the  Perak River.  Subsequently , in 1993 a team organised by Sutari  and Hua Chew,  comprising mostly of the members of the Bird Group, carried out two earlier attempts (1993 & 1998) at a systematic count of their spectacular flight along the Perak transect, yielding  a maximum  of 2, 067 individuals in one morning session.  The presence of this hornbill species in Peninsular Malaysia was considered non-existent or highly controversial among ornithological experts at that time. In 1999, Sutari and Hua Chew submitted the results of their observations to the MNS-Bird Conservation Council for scrutiny and within the year the Plain-pouched was “accepted as Malaysia’s tenth hornbill species” by MNS Birds Records Committee.  The experience was most exhilarating and unforgettable for the participants, and the count sessions constitute Singaporean birders’ contribution to the Malayan Nature Society’s  efforts to protect  the species.   The “totals of more than 2000 hornbills at Temengor  seem to be unprecedented anywhere in the world for any hornbill species …. “ said Dr. Geoffrey Davison” (Yeap, C.A. et al, 2015). A later count by an MNS team in 2008 yielded 3, 261 individuals, the highest number obtained so far in a single session at the peak period.


A large flock of Plain-pouched Hornbills. Photo: Sutari.

According to Yeap, C. A. et al (2015: “The seasonal migration of Plain-pouched Hornbills must rank as one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Asia. The Hornbill Triangle offers the best hope for the future survival of the southernmost population of Plain- pouched Hornbills.” We wish our Malaysian counterpart great success towards the achievement of this goal for the benefit of the present and future generation of the world.

Video by the late Ong Kiem Sian on their 1998 Hornbill survey here (Video)

Reference:  Yeap C.A. et al “Conserving the globally threatened Plain-pouched Hornbills in the Belum-temengor Forest Complex, Peninsular Malaysia”Malayan Nature Journal  (MNJ) (2015, 67 (2), Link


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