As they go about their daily activities, fruit-eating animals play an important role in spreading seeds throughout the forests in which they dwell. The larger the quantity of fruit an animal eats and the greater its range, the more seeds it can potentially spread.
Orangutans and hornbills are two of the most important forest animals that help spread seeds across vast areas. Eight different species of hornbills, all large, unique-looking birds can be found throughout the forests of Borneo and consume a large amount of forest fruit. With a vast home range, hornbills play a very significant role in spreading seeds to different corners of the forest.
Many hornbills eat primarily figs, but also will feed on Polyalthia,Horsfieldia, and countless other forest fruits. The seeds of the fruits consumed by hornbills are then scattered across the forest as they fly over the canopy. These seeds eventually sprout into seedlings and grow as part of the forest’s natural replanting process, all thanks to animals such as hornbills and orangutans.
Hornbills prefer to spend time in tall and wide trees that grow in the heart of vast forests, which is important for their breeding. The Critically Endangered helmeted hornbill breeds as monogamous pairs and during the time that the female is incubating the eggs and rearing the new chick, she will actually seal herself into a nest within the trunk of the tree, leaving them hidden from predators and completely reliant on the male to bring food.
In the Kehje Sewen Forest in East Kalimantan, our Post-Release Monitoring team members regularly hear the striking calls of hornbills and often hear the loud, flapping wings of these large exotic birds as they soar overhead. A hornbill’s call - much like a human scream or cackling laugh - can travel a distance of over two kilometres, piercing its way through the thick canopy of the Kalimantan rainforest! The sound often startles those hearing it for the first time, but for our PRM team members who hear it every day, a hornbill’s call is a reassuring sign that forest regeneration is taking place. The calls represent hope that wild places will still exist for our children and grandchildren to experience in the future.
The tallest trees that reach beyond the top of the forest canopy – known as the emergent layer – are favoured by hornbills. These trees stand out, and are easy to spot when walking along the river’s edge, as they tower above the surrounding trees. This is where our PRM team members can usually find hornbill nests. When it rains, this emergent layer is often shrouded in mist - what a calming sight for the soul.
Let’s protect our wildlife and the wild places they call home, and in doing so, assist natural forest regeneration and safeguard forests for generations to come!