Malaysia’s tropical rainforests host an incredible array of wildlife, recognised as one of the worlds leading ‘biodiversity hotspots.’ Spending time trekking through the forests, you can see, hear, and sense the presence of this diversity all around you. The huge variety has led to some truly remarkable adaptations and quirks in evolution. Some of these little oddities have seen their owners pushed right to the brink of extinction. One bird species in particular has seen their numbers plummet in a very short amount of time, jumping from being ‘Near Threatened’ straight to ‘Critically Endangered’ in 2015 when the IUCN re-evaluated their conservation status. At this point in time, no one is sure how many of these majestic birds are even left in the wild. The Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is truly one of the most amazing birds across South-East Asia, but also one of the most endangered.
The Hoatzin is a unique denizen of the tropical rainforests of the Amazon in South America. They are fairly widespread across northern and central South America within their rainforest homes, and you can find them fairly frequently beside bodies of water (particularly oxbow lakes and rivers). They spend most of their lives living in the riparian (riverside) vegetation. In fact, they nest in trees and branches that hang over the water! The Hoatzin is about the size of a turkey, with a large rufous coloured crest on top of its head, and blue scaly skin around its large red eye (Hoyo et al 1996). So they look… pretty strange. Strap yourselves in, and hold onto your hats because we’re only just getting started! Physically, behaviourally, and even historically, the Hoatzin is pretty damn weird. Let’s find out what this means!