The Bali Starling is critically endangered, due to illegal capture and trade of the birds for caged

The Bali Starling is critically endangered, due to illegal capture and trade of the birds for caged pets (Photo: Sakurai Midori)

A local conservation organization in Bali is encouraging school students to draw, feed and come into contact with the island’s wildlife mascot, the Bali Starling.

It’s part of an attempt to save the critically endangered bird from extinction.

With illegal wildlife trafficking and trade rampant in Indonesia, the Bali Starling is just one species under threat.

Nicole Curby has this report from Bali, Indonesia.

A successful man must have a house, a horse, a wife, a dagger, and a song bird in a cage.

Well, that’s according to a well-known Javanese proverb.

And while the saying might sound fanciful, this belief is a big factor behind Indonesia’s trade in caged birds. A trade that is pushing some endangered species to the brink of extinction.

At one time there was thought to be just six Bali starlings left in the wild.

For these small birds, their beauty has been their curse.

Mehd Halaouate, breeding and release manager at Bali’s Begawan Foundation, describes the species.

“All white, with the black tips of the wings and blue mask around the eye. The kids here they say they have a zoro mask. A blue zoro mask. It’s a beautiful species. And this beauty made them very sought after by collectors.”

Halaouate is responsible for the breeding and release of the critically endangered Bali Starling.

There are 60 birds under his care here at the Begawan Foundation.

“When we see a good pair like that, spending a lot of time together, the male always trying to seduce the female, and getting her close by. When we see something like that we move them to the honeymoon suite. And they will be housed on their own, they will be given plenty of food and a nest, and they will start a family,” explains Halaouate.

These strategies are having great success in increasing the numbers of birds within the sanctuary.

But even though the Bali Starling is protected – and capture and trade of the bird illegal – it remains under threat, with only 75-100 birds thought to exist in the wild now.

The birds are being trapped and trafficked from the only places that they survive in the wild.

They are still being trapped in Bali Barat National Park and Nusa Penida, because they fetch quite a high price, it’s about $400 US each,” says Halaoute.

“The problem we have is that the younger generation – not much old generation, but the young generation- they see Bali Starling as equivalent to an iphone or ipad. They are nearly same price.”

Last year, the wildlife NGO, Traffic counted 1,900 birds, from 206 different species, sold at Jakarta’s three bird markets in the space of just three days.

And not all of those sales are legal.

In May this year, the NGO Scorpion found 1500 birds and animals being sold at Muntilan Wildlife Market in Magelang, Central Java, without the necessary permits.

Gunung Gea from Scorpion Foundation says it’s not hard to find protected species being sold in wildlife markets across Indonesia.

“It has been one year since we have started monitoring wildlife markets in Indonesia. We always find protected animals in the markets, and the law enforcement are very slow against this illegal trafficking of wildlife,” Gunung Gea says.

Despite the efforts of independent organizations to monitor wildlife markets, without the support of law enforcement authorities, they are unable to stop the illegal trade.

This June, 25 different wildlife NGOs from across Indonesia formed a coalition to urge the Indonesian government to do more to stop wildlife trafficking and illegal sales.

They would like to see better enforcement of wildlife transportation permits, and more effective policing when cases of illegal wildlife trade are reported.

We want the government to be more serious in facing the wildlife crimes in Indonesia. We have forestry police rapid response unit, but they are very slow,” Gea states.

Sixty-five Bali Starlings were released into the wild on Nusa Penida, in the South East of Bali in 2006-7.

But after initial growth, their numbers dropped from 120 to 12 in the space of just three years.

The last audit we did we found only 12 birds. We found traps, we found ropes hanging on trees, we found nest holes, large enough to fit hands, human hands to get the birds,” Haloaoute says.

Sanctuaries like the Begawan Foundation are successfully increasing the number of endangered birds in captivity.

But as long as the birds continue to be captured, there aren’t places where the birds can be released, safe in the knowledge they will survive.

Now the Begawan Foundation is trying to encourage school students and young people to care for and protect the rare bird, Halaouate tells me.

 It all depends on the young generation. We can do so much here, but if the young generation are not convinced these birds need saving, then we have done nothing.”

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