Above: Javan green magpie. EAZA say the Silent Forest campaign will provide ideas to enable environmental education in zoos, and mentorship and manpower to support and initiate conservation breeding programmes

THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS of trade in songbirds across Southeast Asia will be highlighted in a new two-year campaign to save iconic Asian species from extinction.

The Silent Forest campaign, which runs now until September 2019, will address the ongoing songbird extinction crisis in Asia and increase awareness within zoos and the general public.

It aims to raise €400,000 from European zoos and their visitors to fund field conservation projects.

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), together with TRAFFIC, BirdLife International and the IUCN Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group, have identified six Critically Endangered species for the campaign, which is the first EAZA conservation campaign focused primarily on birds. Particularly songbirds of Southeast Asia whose numbers have been intensely exhausted over the years for trade, singing competitions, traditional medicine and food.

Owning a songbird has long been an integral part of south-east Asian culture, but it has pushed many species, such as the Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) and Javan green magpie (Cissa thalassina), to the brink of extinction. With markets charging high prices for such birds, this has encouraged illegal trapping from huge areas of forest. Now leading biologists from EAZA and other NGOs will work on scientific measures to increase protection for these species.

Kanitha Krishnasamy from TRAFFIC, the world’s leading NGO on wildlife trafficking, explained: “The Asian songbird crisis has reached a tipping point: without immediate action, it is almost certain their voices will be silenced forever in the forest.

“We aim to raise the profile of this crisis both in Europe and in the range States and have a plan in place, in the form of a Conservation Strategy for these birds which this campaign feeds directly into.”

The campaign wants to establish a sustainable model that respects both local culture and laws without destroying Southeast Asia’s biodiversity.

“That’s a formidable challenge, but this is a very strong coalition of partners, and there are some amazing projects that the campaign will support,” added Ms Krishnasamy.

Chair of the campaign, Thomas Ouhel of Liberec Zoo, said: “If we can persuade traders to work with conservationists and breeders rather than pillaging the forests, there’s a real chance to save these birds by changing attitudes towards the ownership of songbirds.”

He continued: “Funding for the breeding and conservation projects, linked to educational work in the local communities can halt and eventually reverse the decline in songbirds species, bringing back the music of the forest for the benefit of future generations.”

To find out how you can help, and to sign up to the campaign, visit: www.silentforest.eu

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