Award-Winning Hornbill Expert to Deliver Keynote Address at WAZA Conference

Date: 2018/10/08


Prominent Thai conservationist to speak at WAZA Conference


Prominent Thai conservationist Pilai Poonswad, will reflect on 40 years of hornbill conservation in a keynote address at the upcoming 73rd WAZA Annual Conference, in Bangkok, Thailand, in October.


Poonswad is an award-winning ornithologist, microbiologist and conservation biologist, and is emeritus professor of biology at the department of microbiology in Mahidol University. She was awarded the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2006 for her efforts in saving threatened hornbills and their rainforest habitat in Thailand.  Known as the "Great mother of hornbills," Poonswad rediscovered a species of hornbill thought to be extinct in Thailand's forests and has spent her life working to protect hornbills globally.


In her keynote address, Poonswad will discuss her life's work protecting hornbills and their habitat in Thailand, how she turned former poachers and illegal loggers into protectors of these beautiful birds and their habitat and how involving local communities played a key role in protecting hornbill species.


"Professor Poonswad is a remarkable conservationist and her work protecting hornbills and their habitat is inspirational," said WAZA Chief Executive Officer, Doug Cress.  "Her efforts involving local communities and families has created significant changes in community attitudes towards conservation, which serves as a great example for others to follow."


For the past four decades, Poonswad has led a multi-faceted campaign to protect hornbills. She established the Hornbill Research Foundation in 1994 to raise funds for their study and protection. In the same year, she transformed former poachers and illegal loggers into forest wardens and ecotourism guides.


In 1997, Poonswad created a plan for city families to "adopt" hornbill nests to fund conservation efforts. Through her tireless campaigning, she raised funds to protect more than 100 nests for 10 years and continue hornbill research.


Poonswad's 2006 Rolex Award allowed her to implement a successful project to teach schoolchildren and villagers about the need to protect hornbills and their habitats, along with the installation of artificial nests for the birds. She enlisted the help of the local villagers to maintain and repair existing nest sites. In 2007, the Thai King Bhumibhol (King Rama IX) awarded Poonswad with the Dushdi Mala Medal - the highest-ranked civil medal in Thailand, granted for services to the state.


The 73rd WAZA Annual Conference will be held at the Avani Riverside Bangkok Hotel from 21-25 October 2018, under the theme "Wild at Heart," which will focus on topical issues of conservation, animal welfare and sustainable development among many more.


To view the conference programme, click here


For more information and to register, please visit:


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