This species is listed as Vulnerable (VU) in the IUCN Red List and Appendix II in CITES. In Indonesia the species is protected under Law No. 5 of 1990, Government Regulation No. 7 of 1999, Regulation of Minister of Environment and Forestry No. P.20/Menlhk/Setjen/Kum.1/6/2018 on Protected Flora and Fauna Species.
The Sulawesi hornbill is a popular species for local communities. It inhabits primary forest, forest edges, swamp forest, and secondary forest from sea level to 700 m asl. This endemic bird is distributed throughout Sulawesi Island with two recognized subspecies. R. e. exarhatus is found in North Sulawesi, southern North Sulawesi to Kulawi, Lindu Lake and Lembeh Island; R. e. sanfordi occurs in South Sulawesi, Muna Island, Buton Island, and southern Togean Island.
With its small size of ±53 cm, the Sulawesi hornbill is sometimes referred to as the dwarf hornbill. It has black body with greenish tint on its tail and back. Male hornbill has yellow face and throat while the female has black face and throat.
Both Sulawesi hornbill subspecies have their own unique characteristics. Male R. e. exarhatus has a black stripe on the lower mandible, while the lower mandible of male R. e. sanfordi has a black tinge.
Eighty-five percent of the Sulawesi hornbill’s diet comprises fruits and a smaller percentage is small animals, especially invertebrates. The bird often searches for food in the middle canopy of fruiting trees, sometimes in groups of dozens of individuals that would then perch on Ficus spp. trees.
The Sulawesi hornbill lives in small groups of 2-10 individuals (4 birds on average). This arrangement helps protect the group’s territory and assist during breeding. In one group there may be more than one breeding pair.
Breeding season begins on March-April. The female will seal herself inside a tree hollow to incubate her eggs. The male forages and deliver food for the female and chicks. A female Sulawesi hornbill usually lays 2-3 eggs in a clutch.
The decline of Sulawesi hornbill population is driven by habitat degradation, forest fire, poaching and even gold mining. As much as 16.9% Sulawesi forest has disappeared over a ten-year period in 1985-1997, and another 36.1% in 1997-2001.
Between 1978 to 1979, Sulawesi hornbill population crashed due to disease introduced by domestic poultry.
Though small, the Sulawesi hornbill’s range can reach up to 100 km2.