The online trade in hornbills is on the rise, a monitoring group says.
The birds are widely hunted for their large casques and also sought as pets.
Police in Indonesia’s Banten province arrested two men who were using social media to sell dozens of hornbills, an iconic bird under threat from habitat loss and poaching.
Didin Hendriana, 35, procured the birds, buying them from people living near Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java, and Luki Hamjah, 20, was in charge of selling them, according to Fajar Mauludi, the head of the Pandeglang Police’s criminal investigation unit.
Police confiscated 13 adult and seven baby oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) and three adult and two baby wreathed hornbills (Aceros undulatus), as well as 11 common hill mynas (Gracula religiosa), from the two men.
The traffickers had set up a Facebook account, “Ca Pets,” to sell the birds as pets, and were also hawking them over WhatsApp.
They bought the birds for about $15-20 each and sought to sell them for twice as much, Fajar said.
The trafficking of hornbills in Indonesia is rampant, with the illegal trade moving increasingly online, according to Rangkong Indonesia, a hornbill conservation group.
From January 2017 to August 2021, Rangkong Indonesia identified 51 cases of hornbills being sold online.
Sixty-five percent of those cases involved social media — almost always Facebook and Instagram — and the rest involved e-commerce sites Tokomedia, Bukalapak and Shoppee.
A little over half of the cases saw live hornbills being offered as pets — these tended to be wreathed hornbills — while the rest were for their body parts. Some hornbill species have been hunted to the brink of extinction for their distinctive ivory-like bill casques, which are prized by collectors in parts of Asia.