The Hornbill Nest Adoption Program (HNAP) is a community-based conservation initiative that was started in 2012 to protect hornbills and hornbill nest trees/habitat in the Papum Reserve Forest which is contiguous with Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. The program is based on the concept of “shared parenting”: citizens adopt hornbill nests and local people employed as Nest Protectors monitor and protect hornbill nest trees to ensure successful breeding. Donors are known as ‘Hornbill Parents’. Of course, the real hornbill parents still do all the hard work and we just help them along a bit.
Hornbills are secondary cavity nesters, therefore the availability of suitable cavities for nesting can be a limiting factor for hornbill populations. Hornbill pairs invest a lot of time and effort in breeding. The female hornbill seals herself in the cavity for 3-4 months (depending on the species) while food is brought by the male. They are vulnerable to human disturbance during this time. This makes it important to monitor and protect hornbill nests during the breeding season. There are three hornbill species in the lowland forests in this area – the Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill and the Oriental Pied Hornbill. A fourth species, the Rufous-necked Hornbill is rarely seen here and found in the higher elevation forests.
To ensure the protection of the three lowland hornbill species and their nest trees, the HNAP currently employs 11 Nest Protectors who belong to the local Nyishi tribe. The nest protectors locate hornbill nests in January-February and monitor them through the breeding season (March to August). They monitor hornbill roost sites and walk transects in the Reserve Forest to count hornbills and other wildlife in the non-breeding season. From 2012-2020, through the HNAP, 152 hornbill chicks have successfully fledged from their nests which includes 35 Great Hornbill, 20 Wreathed Hornbill and 97 Oriental Pied Hornbill chicks.
The Nest Protectors have been monitoring nests even during the pandemic and sharing data using an online portal. The Nest Protectors also engage with local community members to instil the message of conservation and discourage people from illegal activities. Their commitment towards hornbills is heartening. For many of them, the HNAP is the main source of income to support their families.