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Forest hornbills in Cameroon: Francis Guetse investigates their populations and threats

16 October, 2023

The Yellow-casqued Hornbill is listed as vulnerable to global extinction.

Cameroon is endowed with an exceptional diversity of birds, but we have very little information about the current population status of many of its 950 species. Forest birds in Cameroon are plagued by many of “the usual suspects” driving African wildlife declines, including habitat destruction and overhunting. As mammal populations decline, poachers may increasingly target larger birds such as francolins, parrots, vultures and other raptors, and hornbills. Smaller and more cryptic wildlife, such as amphibians, may also be decimated by poaching.

Map showing the location of Cameroon’s Littoral Region (in red) in Africa.

In villages near Ebo Forest in Cameroon’s Littoral Region, the site of a proposed national park, residents reported consuming an average of 29 hornbills per month, including Black-casqued Hornbills (Ceratogymna atrata) and White-thighed Hornbills (Bycanistes albotibialis). Such hunting levels are unsustainable for birds that are otherwise long-lived and have low reproductive rates. In nearby Mont Nlonako, University of Bamenda PhD student Francis Guetse has also observed hunting pressure on Yellow-casqued hornbill (Ceratogymna elata), a species listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction.

White-thighed Hornbills. Photo by Tommy Andriollo.

With support from IBCP and the African Bird Club, Francis has been investigating hornbill populations and hunting impacts on them in Mont Nlonako. Through this research, we are collaborating to quantify hornbill population trends, understand threats and drivers of their declines, and raise awareness of their plight. We hope this work will lead to effective, long-term strategies to protect these spectacular birds, forests, and other wildlife in Mont Nlonako.

Black-casqued Hornbill. Photo by Philippe Clement.

As impressive and beautiful African hornbills are, they are also highly vulnerable, and in this way, they are emblematic of the plight of African tropical forest wildlife and ecosystems. Protecting them is in everyone’s interest! Going forward, Francis will engage local communities to assess their attitudes towards hornbills and build capacity for monitoring hornbill population trends. We wish Francis every success and look forward to learning from his important work in Cameroon.

Francis Guetse in the field in Cameroon. Photo courtesy of Francis Guetse.

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