Hornbill survey across North-east India

Survey to assess the status of hornbills in five north-eastern states

Has hornbill distribution declined in last twenty years?

What is the status of hornbills across select Protected Areas in north-east India?

To find answers to these questions, we traveled 25,000 km, sought information from hunters & elders for an area of more than 17,000 sq. km & trekked in 16 Protected Areas

  • We surveyed several important sites including Nokrek-Siju-Balphakram landscape for hornbills

  • Oriental Pied Hornbills were seen at several sites in Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram during the survey

  • The presence of hornbills was also confirmed through indirect evidence, like this head of the White-throated Brown Hornbill that was showed to us by a villager in eastern Nagaland

  • Hunters and knowledgeable elders were key for seeking information about hornbill presence in the past

  • Thanks to PMGSY and our "Black Pearl", we were able to visit remote villages. It was only sometimes that our vehicle refused to budge!

  • The survey also gave us an opportunity to interact with the Forest Department

  • We also got an opportunity to talk about hornbills with children

  • Hornbill survey in the Manas National Park

  • Phwangpui National Park, Mizoram one of the many Protected Areas we visited

  • A Great hornbill Casque and a Brown hornbill beak in a village in Nagaland. Hunting has affected hornbill populations greatly in several parts of Northeast India

  • A female Phayre's Leaf monkey with infant in Tripura. One of the many primates we encountered during the survey.

  • Rubber plantations have replaced much of Tripura's forests and hornbill habitats

Hornbills across the Northeast

We worked across five states in north-east India -Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura - to document the status of hornbills in selected protected areas through intensive field surveys. Through structured interviews with hunters, knowledgeable elders and forest department staff we also aimed to detect change in habitat use intensity by hornbills over 20 years through structured interviews

The survey began in October 2013 and ended in May 2014 during which we travelled more than 25,000 km. Four species of hornbills were detected, with limited detections of Brown hornbill from a few sites in four states. Six species of primates were also detected. Information on hunting and other threats to these species was also collected during the interview surveys. The survey has resulted in a quantitative understanding of hornbill presence/ occupancy over a large area in north-east India, with a considerable decline in hornbill habitat-use intensity and detection probability of all hornbill species in most states in north-east India, which has pointed to the need for targeted conservation action for hornbills.

Mrunal interview 20in 20mizoram

Respondents identifying hornbill species through photographs



  • Whitley Fund for Nature

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