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Black Market Demand for 'Red Ivory' Is Dooming This Rare Bird

The rare and beautiful helmeted hornbill is vanishing at an alarming rate from the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Prized for their red keratin “helmets,” this unique large bird species has been so heavily poached it is now more endangered than elephants. Further exacerbating the problem, the species only breeds once a year and hatches just one chick at a time. Since the females rely on the males for food, the poaching of the male is also a death sentence for the female and her chick.

Although wealthy buyers in China drive the black market demand today, native people in Borneo have carved hornbill casques into intricate ornamental pieces for more than 2,000 years. In this short documentary, filmmaker Luca Verducci pulls back the the curtain on this illegal trade by following both a poacher and conservation photographer in their search for the critically endangered species.

Learn more about the plight of the helmeted hornbills here.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic's belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. To submit a film for consideration, please email The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.