- Hornbills are a family of tropical and sub-tropical birds which are found extensively in Africa, Asia and Melanesia.
- Famously dubbed the ‘Farmers of the Forest’, these frugivores help in seed dispersal of several endemic trees and are important for survival and upkeep of entire forests.
- In India, 9 subspecies of hornbills are found. They are: The Great Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Narcondam Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, White-throated Brown Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and the Indian Grey Hornbill.
- Among them, the Great hornbill is the largest species in the country.
- Five species are found in the north- eastern states of which the Wreathed hornbill, Rufous-necked hornbill and the White- throated brown hornbill are restricted to this region within India, although they have a wider distribution in South-east Asia.
- The Narcondam hornbill is found only on Narcondam island in the Bay of Bengal.
- The Indian grey hornbill occurs in the Indian subcontinent, while the Malabar Pied hornbill is found only in India and Sri Lanka.
- The Malabar grey hornbill is endemic to the Western Ghats.
Papum Reserve Forest (RF)
- It is an Important Bird Area (IBA) in Arunachal Pradesh.
- It lies adjacent to Pakke Tiger Reserve of Arunachal Pradesh. This forest typically contains Sub-tropical Dry Evergreen and Semi-evergreen Forests, while the higher areas are under Subtropical Broadleaf Hill Forest cover.
- It is very special to the Hornbill population as this reserve forest is home to 3 hornbills subspecies; i.e. Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied.
Why in the news?
- In the last 5 years (2013-2017), the papum reserve forest has declined by 24% of its total forest area. Annually this forest is losing upto 8 sq.km.
- Illegal logging, deforestation, ethnic conflicts, agricultural expansion, conversion to plantations etc. have caused the hornbill population of the region to decline in drastic ways.
- The hornbills are hunted here by local tribes for using their beaks and feathers to use them as headgear. There has been a push to promote synthetic feathers and beaks among these tribes so that they stop hunting hornbill species.
- Experts have been asking to promote conservation and maintenance of these forests to conserve these hornbill species.