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Photo of hunter with dead hornbill sparks online outrage

By Rose-An Jessica Dioquino
April 7, 2014

Hunter with dead juvenile Rufous Hornbill.

A photo of a man holding up a dead hornbill he shot has sparked online outrage about the frequent killings of threatened and endangered birds in the country.

The image, posted on the Wild Bird Club Philippines (WBCP) Facebook page on March 31, shows the hunter holding up the bird by its claws, the rifle that he used to shoot it slung across his body.

According to WBCP president Mike Lu, who shared the photo, it was taken by his friends who "went birdwatching" in Adams, Ilocos Norte and "were thrilled to see a family of Rufous Hornbills."

The hornbill in the photo was "juvenile (bill is not red yet)," he added in the caption.

As of this posting, the photo has been shared 1,074 times on the social networking site.

The following day, the WBCP said: "Our contact confirmed that the the son-in-law of the vice mayor and that his father is a councilor! ... His father is pleading to give his son a second chance."

A separate report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 4 identified the man in the photograph as Mikel Dato, son of town councilor Julian Dato and the son-in-law of Adams vice mayor Wagner Poking.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sent a team to look into the matter, the report added, though a formal complaint has yet to be filed.

Christian Perez and Rob Hutchinson reporting
the hunting incident to local police
The rufous hornbill is endemic to the Philippines and known locally as "kalaw". The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists it as a "near threatened" species, "as it is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly throughout its range as a result of habitat loss and persecution by hunters and trappers."

In an interview with GMA News Online, Lu said the birdwatchers, including two foreigners, were asked by the DENR to submit an affidavit on the incident, to be used in filing the complaint.

The WBCP met with the Biodiversity Management Bureau (formerly the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau) last week to discuss the incident, as well as ways to further the government's information campaign on wildlife matters, Lu added.

In November last year, the daughter of former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson posted pictures of herself and her father with wild ducks they had shot, saying in a post that they had gone hunting "somewhere in Ilocos." The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines decried the Singsons' actions, saying that wild duck hunting is illegal in the Philippines. Singson's daughter, Richelle Singson-Michael, later claimed that the photos were "not taken in the Philippines."

In an administrative order late last year, the DENR declared a dipterocarp forest in Adams "a critical habitat for wildlife species."