KUCHING: Sad and disappointing, but true! Many Sarawakians still cannot identify their state bird, the Rhinoceros Hornbill.
Jason Teo, who is a local zoologist, knows about this close up and wishes it is not so.
He is not so downhearted about it, though, because compared to last year more people have started to use the Rhinoceros Hornbill instead of the Great Hornbill to represent Sarawak.
As a member of the Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch (MNSKB) and one of the hornbill research team members of the society, Teo reminded Sarawakians that the Great Hornbill is not the state bird of Sarawak.
To him, there should be no confusion about the matter because the Great Hornbill cannot even be found in Sarawak.
“In Malaysia, the Great Hornbill can only be found in Malaya, whereas the Rhinoceros Hornbill are found in Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah,” he said.
On his YouTube channel, he told his viewers the three ways to distinguish the Rhinoceros Hornbill from the Great Hornbill, that is, by looking at the neck, wings, and the casque (the helmet-like structure on the head).
“The Great Hornbill has whitish-yellow neck and wings, whereas the Rhinoceros Hornbill’s neck and wings are all black.
“The Rhinoceros Hornbill’s casque protrudes out, thus the name ‘rhinoceros’, while the casque of the Great Hornbill does not protrude as much. The casque of the Rhinoceros Hornbill is a mixture of red, orange, and yellow while the Great Hornbill is almost entirely yellow,” said Teo.
With greater public awareness of the hornbills, he hoped that more people would identify the birds properly.
Besides the Rhinoceros Hornbill, there are ten other species of hornbills in Malaysia. However, only eight species can be found in Sarawak – the Oriental Pied Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Black Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, and Helmeted Hornbill.
The Helmeted Hornbill is now critically endangered, meaning it is only two stages away from total extinction due to threats from habitat destruction and poaching.