Above: Some of the crates and dead birds discovered during the raids in Indonesia Photo: FLIGHT


FOUR MASSIVE SEIZURES totalling more than 10,000 live and dead songbirds in the two largest islands in Indonesia at the end of last year highlight the continued trafficking of wild songbirds from the countryside to supply the thriving and deadly market for captive birds in the cities.

Marison Guciano, executive director of Indonesian bird charity FLIGHT has urged the country’s forestry authorities to monitor more closely the large-scale bird collection and smuggling.

He said: “Given the number of large-scale seizures carried out and the thousands of live and dead birds found in these seizures, it is evident that big players are involved in the trade.”

The nation is made up of more than 17,000 islands, but all four seizures, on November 17,  21-23 and 27 and December 3, 2018, were on either Sumatra or Java, where much of the bird traffic is concentrated. Java has already seen species declines, but now escalating trapping in Sumatra to feed the continuous Javanese demand is putting its birdlife under pressure, too.

Serene Chng, programme officer for TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitor, said: “Pinch points between Sumatra and Java, such as Bakauheni, Merak and Cilegon, are part of a frequently-used smuggling route. We congratulate Quarantine for continuously busting illegal wildlife trade here.”

Crested jays (Platylophus galericulatus) and Javan mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) were among species confiscated, along with a wide selection of laughingthrushes, white-eyes, prinias, sunbirds, tailorbirds, leafbirds, bulbuls and nuthatches.

Birds that survived their gruelling journey have now been released into forest patches on Sumatra.

There is much still to do: “The illegal trade is draining Indonesia of its wild birds,” added Serene Chng.

Despite 557 species receiving legal protection, Javan markets are known to be mostly stocked with wild birds from across Indonesia. Less than six months ago, 6,000 birds were found in a single truck – with 2,000 of those already dead.

In surveys, TRAFFIC has found 19,000 birds in three markets over three days in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and almost 23,000 in five markets elsewhere on Java. Anecdotal evidence and the species for sale suggest a significant proportion were sourced from Sumatra.

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