Background statement from Prof. Dr. Pilai Poonswad

The Thailand Hornbill Project was initiated after I spent a brief spell in 1978 acting as a guide to a BBC film crew in Khao Yai National Park where they were making documentary film entitled “Fig Feast at Khao Yai”.

The film was based on a scientific article by my early mentor, Dr. H. Elliott McClure and was featured as one part in the BBC series “Safari to Thailand. The producer, Jeffery Boswall, asked me to find a hornbill roost, a fruiting fig tree and, if possible, a hornbill’s nest.

I spent about a week searching for a roost without success. At that time I was very ignorant about hornbills and did not know that in January, the time of year that it was, hornbills would have already dispersed from flocking.

However, I was lucky enough to spot a fruiting fig tree near the road in the park. I watched the hornbills while the BBC was filming a male Great Hornbill and other birds and mammals that were feeding on the ripe figs.

I was very excited to see a hornbill at such close quarters. My excitement increased when I subsequently watched a Great Hornbill at its nest, fascinated by its size, sound and behavior.

When Atsuo Tsuji from Japan visited me in early 1979, I insisted on taking him to see this fascinating bird although I knew he had come primarily to see shorebirds.

Watching him at work with the hornbills, I grew to admire his extraordinary patience, his work ethic and of course, his talent as a photographer. Later, observing his tension in watching the male Great Hornbill, I knew that he, too, was completely captivated.

With the two of us thus spellbound and gripped with curiosity about these birds, the Hornbill Project began

The Hornbill Research Foundation was established as a consequence of a research project into the ecology of hornbills begun by the Faculty of Science at Mahidol University in 1980

The study was initiated in Khao Yai National Park and later extended to include a number of forested areas in the western and southern regions of Thailand

Apart from the biology and ecology of hornbills, research was also made into the range and status of hornbills throughout the country. As a result of the expansion of the project, an increasing number of research workers were needed to cope with the maintenance of uninterrupted record-keeping.

This led to the creation of the foundation in July 1993 that H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirinthorn of Thailand was graciously pleased to name “ Hornbill Research Foundation”