BURAUEN, Leyte – Locals of this town are missing seeing a bird named after one of its barangays.
In particular, they are the residents of Barangay Kalaw, an upland village the forest-dwelling hornbill is named after.
The farming village, with a population of 450, is about 18 kilometers away from the town center.
“In the 1960s up to 1970s, there were many hornbills here. I was still young at that time, but I remember seeing them. They started to disappear in the 1980s,” recalled Kalaw village chief Noel Rellesiva, 59.
“It is sad to know that the people here, especially the young ones, were not able to see the actual hornbills. They can only be seen in books and online images,” he added.
Rellesiva said that hunting and widespread loss of habitat due to illegal logging, conversion of forest lands to agriculture area, and building of houses resulted in the bird’s disappearance.
“I am 33 years old now and ever since I was born, I did not remember seeing such kind of bird,” shared Jonadel Polancos, a resident of Brgy. Kalaw.
Carlito Tuballa, technical director of the Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said there are two major reasons why hornbills became extinct – population growth and destruction of their natural habitat.
“Every wildlife is sensitive and so are the hornbills. Every human intervention, they will immediately leave the area. In fact, in some violent communities, they are the ones causing it to flee. They hunt them that is why they get out from the place,” he explained.
He asked city folks not to keep hornbills as pets. He said that males of some hornbill species are known to feed their nesting mates. If one is captured, the entire family suffers.
The said species of large hornbills is endemic here in the Philippines. It has been often called “the clock of the mountains” because of its periodic noontime call.
Rellesiva recalled a story of a man who died and the locals were able to tell the police about the time of its death because they remembered the moment when hornbills made a sound.
Philippine Hornbill is classified as near threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act prohibits hunting of hornbills.