At Shangri-La, we care about not only our guests, but also the species that inhabit our surrounding environments. In Thailand, there are 13 species of hornbills, most of which are either endangered or critically endangered. Hornbills are important seed dispersal agents, but are at great risk of extinction in Thailand as only 9.3% of the country’s ecosystems are suitable habitats.
On May 31, 2018, Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai launched the Hornbill Reintroduction Project as the project’s sponsor to help restore the population of two hornbill species, the Great Hornbill and the Oriental Pied Hornbill. In partnership with the Hornbill Research Foundation, Mahidol University, Kasetsart University, Zoological Park Organization and Mae Kham Pong Village, the long-term program will reintroduce six hornbill couples – four Oriental Pied Hornbills and two Great Hornbills – through a soft release into the forest surrounding the Mae Kham Pong Village. The reintroduction will start with one month of enclosure for the birds before they are released with trackers, which researchers and university students will monitor.
“Last April, I participated in a tree planting activity where we planted a few hundred trees, which made me so proud,” said Sitthinun Chaiwongvart, front office manager at Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai. “But after I found out that one hornbill could plant thousands of trees in a year - that amazed me! This beautiful creature is a forest farmer and pays a very important role to our forest ecosystem. Moreover, I love that hornbills are a monogamous species, so full of love for their partner. I think it’s important to save them.”
To support the project, the hotel set up a hornbill exhibition to educate guests and colleagues about the species’ importance to Thailand’s forest ecosystem. The hotel also welcomed the famed ornithologist, microbiologist and conservation biologist Dr. Pilai Poonswad, known as “the great mother of hornbills” and founder of The Hornbill Research Foundation, to give educational talks about the species and the sustainability of the tropical forest system.
“We set up the exhibition in front the hotel’s meeting rooms,” said Saranya Buntem, communications manager at the hotel. “The highlight of the event was the lecture about hornbills and tropical forest ecosystem by Dr. Poonswad. After the lecture, there was a lively Q&A session, during which people asked a lot of questions. Hopefully together we can encourage a pattern of sustainability and ecotourism for generations to come.”
After the program launch, the hotel moved the exhibition to the hotel lobby and added a donation box to encourage guests and colleagues to support the cause. The hotel will also raise money for the project through fundraising initiatives and by selling themed tote bags at the Health Club and CHI, The Spa.
“The money raised will go to the project itself, which has been thoughtfully developed by forestry consultant Demis Galli in partnership with Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai,” said Buntem. “We look forward to future activities to support the program, including a site visit to see the hornbills!”
Congratulations to the team at Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai for the thoughtful initiative.