Born in 1946, Pilai Poonswad, a professor in biology at Bangkok’s Mahidol University, is one of Thailand’s most prominent conservationists.
As a student in the 1960s, Poonswad was inspired by American ornithologist Elliott McClure to take an interest in hornbills. She finds their behaviour highly endearing, seemingly comparable to human behaviour.
Since 1978, Dr Poonswad has vigorously pursued her interest in hornbills, leading a multifaceted campaign to protect them.
Her 2006 Rolex Award allowed her to implement a successful project of teaching schoolchildren and villagers about the need to protect hornbills and their habitats, along with the installation of artificial nests for the birds. She has been able to turn poachers into guardians of the great bird.
The current focus in her work is on the use of GPS Satellite Telemetry to investigate core habitats for hornbills and the management of nests.
Published in 2006