Hornbills Mystical and Majestic Borneo Jungle Diaries S02E04 SZtv

Since I arrived in DGFC, I’ve been woken up by lots of different animals. This morning, I woke up to screeching sounds outside my window. And that’s the animal we’re helping today. Marvellous and majestic, these are hornbills. Named, of course, after their giant beaks, hornbills are some of the most recognizable birds in all of Borneo. Playing an important role in the forest ecosystem, they disperse seeds from digested fruits and berries far and wide. With 8 different species, these birds are a diverse bunch, in colour, bill shape and size. But sadly one thing they all have in common is that they need our help. I’m here with Koko, DGFC’s climbing expert and today, me and Chris, our camera guy is learning how to climb up a tree. It's going to be a tough day My name is Mohd Shah Fitri bin Rosli, people call me Koko. I was born and raised in Kinabatangan. I am working in DGFC as a research assistant and I am in charge of all the climbing programs here. In Kinabatangan, we have 8 species of hornbills and one of their characteristics is building nests in tree holes. Here in Danau Girang this is one of the places they hunt for food and build nests in big trees. During the evening, they usually fly across the river, maybe they have other nests there. Hornbills are unique and they are one of the main tourist attractions here in Kinabatangan and we have to protect hornbills here. So before actually going out there and climbing up the tree we need to first know how to do it. I am very excited. I have never… I mean I’ve climbed trees before when I was a kid but it’s not like climbing with a rope and like super tall tree. First thing is to put on the harness. Next we install the ascender. Then we install the Grigri. Lift your arms and legs together. We have to use this to pull our body up. I’m getting nervous now. So you’re going to try to stand up as you pull like this. Most hornbill species nest high up in the safety of the forest canopy. This is fun but it does get… it does get tiring. So to understand more about a hornbill’s preferred habitat, I’m going to have to get myself up to the tree tops. It’s my first time climbing up a tree with a harness But now that I'm up here, oh my goodness uhm I am… I’m so scared! After completing the climbing course, little did I know that a few days later it would come in quite handy… Arriving in from Sukau, a settlement down river, came Eddie and his treetop team from HUTAN, another NGO working to conserve hornbill species along the Kinabatangan. And they brought with them a portable hornbill home. Okay, so what’s our plan for today? Today we are going to try and search for a suitable tree to install this box, and we’ll try to recce the area here. So shall we go and find a suitable tree? Yes. Let’s go. My name is Eddie Ahmad, I was born in Kampung Sukau. I am currently working with HUTAN. The reason for us to build these artificial bird’s nests, was because of huge deforestation in the Kinabatangan area. So now, the population of big trees or trees with holes has dropped drastically. That’s why home for hornbills have reduced. So we had an idea, to build these artificial nests to help the hornbills. The perfect hornbill nesting tree is one protected from direct sunlight, but tall enough and large enough to withstand high winds and heavy rainstorms Joining forces, Koko and Eddie quickly found an ideal spot. So right now Eddie, Koko and the rest of the team are setting up the pilot lines so we can climb the tree later. Did you get it? Haha! Got it? Yes we got it. Oh it’s just right there. Yeah you did it! Me too! Yay! So the pilot line is up. Now we can head back and bring the artificial bird’s nest here, and then we haul it up. Let’s go! All this work to protect hornbills has more than just a conservation significance. Here’s an interesting fact about Borneo. Hornbills are in fact considered sacred animals to many of the tribes of Borneo, including that to which Eddie and Koko belong. Some Bornean tribes believe the hornbill is the messenger of the spirits. Whilst others even sing hornbill songs about men who went into battle. Lambai nu sangang, Which means may our men be as warlike and swift as a hornbill. It is clear that protecting these birds is not only necessary for the conservation of the species but also for the preservation of traditional cultures. Returning to base camp we grabbed the handmade hornbill home and headed back in to the forest. Despite looking like a simple design, this box has been honed over many years of trial and error to make it as attractive as possible to potential nesting hornbills. That being said, most birds will still take a whole year before they trust it enough to build a nest inside. With Eddie and Koko climbing up to the canopy, we began to hoist the 100 kilo box up to the tree tops One, two, three, up! Up! Up! Up! These RA’s man, they’re amazing! This is incredibly difficult and important work. It is vital they get the box into a prime position and securely attached to the tree. Hornbills are rather fussy so if the box moves or wobbles, or is in slightly the wrong place then the birds may never nest in it. Placing camera traps right in front of the hole will allow us to keep an eye on any visitors to the new nest box. With everything in place and securely attached, Koko descended, checked my harness and invited me up to take a look at what they’d done. Time to put my training into action. Strong. I can do this. I am here on a very tall tree in the Kinabatangan, and we have just hauled a 100kg box up into the tree. I am a bit nervous because I am very high up in the tree. We’re about what 20m up? And this is crazy! Okay Eddie, out of all the trees here, why did you choose this tree? From the looks of it, this place is lacking in big trees and this tree is the biggest here and the area is quite private. If we look above us, the canopy is quite firm. So this tree is perfect to install this box, because less light will shine into the box. Can you explain to me about this? How does a hornbill fit into this hole? This is the “mouth” and our target are two species of hornbills, which are helmeted and rhino. So the function of this is, the helmeted will settle above here and its head will look down to give food to the female inside. But for the rhino, they can settle on the side here or on top of here as well. So both species can use this. It’s really amazing that your team hauled this box up onto the tree. And hopefully there will be hornbills that will come and build their nests here. Yeah. So can we climb down now? Let’s go back down. The last thing to do was to turn on the camera traps to gain an insight into any hornbill activity and whether our hard work is appreciated and this new nest box, a true success. I got another rope burn, my souvenir from climbing up a tree. The climb up there was definitely tiring but I’m so happy that I’m back down here safe and sound. That was totally an amazing experience. I might do it again. I’ll need to work out first. After all our hard work, a few weeks later we received some great news. A number of different hornbill species had been filmed investigating the new nesting box, every day since its instalment. But it doesn’t stop here, HUTAN and the Danau Girang Field Centre, will continue to place more of these boxes up and down the Kinabatangan. Giving these majestic, sacred, iconic and incredibly important species, a helping hand in these changing landscapes of the Kinabatangan River.

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