JOHANNESBURG – Some call it "ivory on wings," part of the bill of a critically endangered bird in Southeast Asia that is sought by poachers and carved into ornaments, mainly for sale in China.
The helmeted hornbill isn't getting as much attention as the beleaguered African elephant at a wildlife conference this week in South Africa. But the mass killing of elephants for their tusks is intertwined with the surge in the slaughter of the rare bird with a beak part that is a coveted substitute for ivory.
Poaching of the helmeted hornbill has soared since around 2010, particularly in Indonesia. That roughly coincides with an increase in elephant poaching that has caused a sharp drop in elephant populations over the past decade.