A man named Kruy Chamroeun confessed to killing a hornbill, a rare bird, on May 10 in Kampot’s Preah Monivong Bokor National Park after pictures of him holding the dead bird circulated on social media.

Chamrouen was summoned to the Ministry of Environment on Wednesday, where he admitted to hunting the hornbill with his homemade rifle while he was visiting a waterfall at the national park in Chhouk district.

Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Chamrouen was made to sign a contract promising not to repeat his crime.

Pheaktra called on people not to hunt or eat wildlife when they visit tourist sites. Rather, they should preserve them to serve the tourism sector, he said.

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) country director Ken Serey said on Wednesday that the hornbill was a rare species that the government and civil society organisations were trying to protect.

He regretted the death of the bird and like Pheaktra, urged the public to help preserve all wild animals.

Serey said hornbills are mostly found living in coastal or mountainous areas but they don’t have concrete shelters because they tend to migrate.

“I am searching specifically for hornbills. They are under threat because of their lack of shelter,” he said.

He said hunters have historically killed them and he’s even observed people catching and raising them in their homes.

“I would like to encourage those who raise the birds at home to release them. They don’t belong in a cage, they belong in forests in the mountains. They are free,” he said.

Fresh News quoted a document from WCS which said a panel of experts revealed that hornbills have lived in Cambodia since 1964.

The document said hornbills have typically lived along the south-western mountains of the country, although some hornbill nests have also been found in the north-eastern forests, especially in Mondulkiri province bordering Vietnam.

The document said hornbills prefer to hatch their eggs in forests with big trees and eat large fruits.

Hornbills can also be found in tropical forests throughout Southeast Asia, but they’re facing a decline in Laos, Thailand and Malaysia.