Copenhagen Zoo held its first Silent Forest campaign day on 24 November and it was a success!
On that day, the Tropical House was not only the home of our bird species but also welcomed art, educative activities and a lot of FUN!
Our nature interpreters and the famous Carl Christian Tofte, artist and bird-book illustrator, painted and talked about birds.
Kids could color or paint their own songbirds and “release” them to the wild on the rainforest wall. In the meantime, in the free-flight and bird enclosures, our zookeepers presented our bird species while feeding them and talking about enrichment activities. The threats and the situation in Asia were of course mentioned and great discussions took place in front of the exhibits.
A perfect way to highlight the Silent Forest campaign and show visitors how they can help fight this crisis by donating their old binoculars (more information on the binocular collection here), some money or buying a cuddly Songbird toy for Christmas!
On the 6th of October 2018, while the International “Day of Animals” was celebrated at Tula Exotarium, our young visitors and their parents learned about the problem of songbirds in South-East Asia and about the EAZA Silent Forest Campaign.
They could listen to the sound records of daytime tropical forest, as well as to the beautiful vocalizations of songbirds, and chose their favorite ones. The children examined the colorful feathers of birds and learned about extinct species – victims of their wonderful plumage. They also discovered how these melodious singers are sadly caught and sold in Asian markets.
Finally, the kids’ imagination was set free to color paper songbirds and restock a tropical forest wall!
If only Asian forests could be repopulated as easily with real songbirds…
I must admit I spend quite some time on social media – probably as much as the average person. I do try to keep it on a “professional” level, keeping myself updated on birds and conservation efforts rather than on what some old school friend had for dinner (no offence).
Working mostly with birds during my 18 years as an animal keeper and nature interpreter in Copenhagen Zoo, I was thrilled when EAZA took the challenge of starting the Silent Forest Campaign. I was even happier that I got to develop and organise the initiatives and activities in the Zoo.
One of the great initiatives of the Silent Forest Campaign team comes from Liberec Zoo. They decided to collect binoculars and send them to Indonesia through Green-books.org which organises bird-watching trips with local families. A really cool idea giving European visitors a thing to act on, instead of the “usual” money donation. Many people have old binoculars at home that they never use. This initiative makes a remote issue -the Asian songbird crisis – more relevant to Europeans and gives them a chance to help!
Unfortunately, the lack of space on the Zoo’s social media – between the zoo’s news and commercial activities, we often wish we could publish more about conservation campaigns and educational material – makes it hard to get the message out as much as I would like.
So I decided to make it personal and use my own Facebook account to spread the message. It became a personal quest to make it relevant for friends and family to join in and share!
I started with “Birds are great! That’s my opinion anyway. That’s why I’m using some time on the Silent Forest Campaign”, explained what the campaign was about, how to donate binoculars and encourage them to share my posts.
I ended the post with my personal thoughts to keep it relevant, saying “even if you think there are bigger problems in the world, a wise colleague of mine says: Nobody can help everywhere, but anyone can do something to help” (I am not sure whether it’s her own saying but I like it very much).
The Facebook post got a very good response. It was shared 78 times, received many positive comments, binoculars were donated and people offered their help to transport them from A to B. Colleagues from Aalborg Zoo made their own collection supporting “mine” with 8 binoculars. The local TV station called to make an interview for their website about the collection. We invited people to drop off their binoculars at the Zoo Entrance, advertising at the same time Copenhagen zoo! Soon 20 binoculars were piling up on the desk, as well as 3 spotting telescopes!
Our great campaign coordinator offered to cover the costs of the binoculars transport to Liberec Zoo. We have just sent a third lot rising the total to 55 collected binoculars!
I believe that making the Facebook post personal, giving it my own words and thoughts, made it relevant enough for people on my FB friend-list to share it. They gave it their own comments such as “help my friend”, “help my colleague” or “help this bird freak”, making it relevant for their FB friend-list too.
I think my message is: if you want to make a difference – make it personal. Also on social media.
The engagement reached by the post of course decreased since its publication but every now and then, some old binoculars appear on my desk. The need for them is still there, so if you got one, let someone know!
If you want to start the initiative in your institution too, find all the info here.
Authors: Matyáš Adam & Barbara Tesařová (Zoo Liberec, Czech Republic)
We are happy to see new ideas come to life to raise awareness of the Asian songbird crisis.
Liberec zoo, the oldest zoological garden in the Czech Republic celebrating its 100th birthday next year and the home of the Silent Forest campaign office, has just unveiled a unique Bird Astronomical Clock!
It introduces the endangered Asian songbirds, which have become a target of wildlife trade, to zoo visitors.
Similarly to the Walk of the Apostles on the famous Prague Astronomical Clock, every hour the six campaign songbird species appear in the window and visitors can listen to their songs.
The beautiful bird models are made of wood and steel and measure one meter!Built in cooperation with the Technical university of Liberec and a Czech sculptor, the clock draws attention to the problem of extinction of the quite unknown songbird species.
The endangered bird clock – whose idea was suggested 10 years ago – has finally become reality, and it is gorgeous!
Don’t forget to go see it next time you are in Liberec Zoo!
Some encouraging news from one of the pre-selected projects for the Silent Forest Campaign.
In the Songbird breeding facility Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark (PCBA), the very first Javan green magpie has hatched only a few weeks ago. It was reared by its parents in the custom made breeding center with the highest level of privacy. Now it has fledged successfully, we have received the first images.
The young Magpie is officially part of the newly approved Javan green magpie EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) and PBCA is a registered non-EAZA partner.
The breeding center, located on the grounds of the Taman Safari zoo in Prigen (Eastern Java), is run by the KASI Foundation. Its ongoing development and construction is co-financed by a number of EAZA institutions through the Silent Forest Campaign.
Follow all the news from the Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark on the Project website.
A couple of weeks ago, we introduced Yudi, a 40-year old Indonesia-native conservationist working on the Banteng program in Baluran National Park for Copenhagen Zoo. In the first post, he spoke about his childhood and the status of Indonesian birds 40 years ago. In the 2nd part, he told us about his hobby, birdwatching, and the way it changed his relation to birds and nature.
Today discover how he helps wildlife conservation.
“Due to my frequent birdwatching activity, I have noticed that some of the common species we could see everywhere in the past 10 years, suddenly disappeared as a result of bird market demand. The Oriental white-eye ,for instance, have suddenly reached a high price because bird lovers started to make a competition with this species. Before they did it only with high-end bird species such as Greater leafbird or Oriental magpie-robin.
Songbirds are a big business in Indonesia, probably in the world too. Because having songbirds as pets is part of the Asian culture, it has triggered a decrease of many bird species populations leading to a terrible situation. If we do not do any strategic actions in the short time, we will probably lose many birds species.
It is a fact: many species of songbirds are suddenly gone or difficult to see in the wild before we had time to conduct proper studies on them. For some species, such as Bali myna, the population in cages is even bigger than the wild population. We don’t even know if there are really wild populations in the wild, since many of them come from reintroductions.
Personally, I do not have an answer when people ask me how we could save wild song birds from extinction. But, as a father, I can teach my daughter to love birds in their natural habitat and introduce her to how rich the Indonesian biodiversity is. We have done so many birdwatching activities during weekdays. She even tells sometimes our member of family, who still have songbird in cages, to release them! My father stopped having birds as pets a long time ago. Thousands of birdwatchers in Indonesia do similar things and we share our experiences together through social media like Facebook.
Unfortunately, the number of birdwatchers in Indonesia is not comparable to the millions of people that still want to have bird as a pet. We cannot tell local communities to stop poaching birds, while they do not have many alternatives to fulfill their family needs. We also cannot say to “bird lovers” to stop having birds as pets, because they will answer “Who you are? Do I break the law?”.
So we have to work together to save song birds from extinction, whatever our background!”
Hariyawan Agung Wahyudi, aka Yudi
Copenhagen Zoo Baluran Programme
We are pleased to see the Silent Forest Campaign is spreading through Europe!
We received some news from Helsinki zoo where the Finnish visitors can learn about the Songbird crisis via many activities.
Several schools took part in a bird-theme day earlier this year.
The teenagers created material for the social media – the goal being an action poster – cartoons and short theater plays to tell their schoolmates about the need to protect songbirds in Asia.
In addition, a singing contest of songbirds’ vocalizations was organized. The winner was the Blackbird, a local species.
As we all love hearing these feathery animals, Helsinki zoo had the great idea to display a bird song automate during Spring. In exchange of a coin, visitors could listen to their favorite songbird vocalization!
Two weeks ago, we posted the first part of Yudi’s story (read it here if you missed it).
Today he talks about his hobby: birdwatching.
“I started birdwatching in 1998, influenced by a campaign on saving Javan sparrow, conducted by one of the Indonesian birdwatching clubs. My reason was simple: I love birds! But I haven’t had the space and the time to breed them since I started college. So, enjoying the songs of wild birds was an alternative for me.
Having birdwatching as a hobby, made me think about many things. As a student in Biology Faculty, I learnt about taxonomy, histology, reproduction, ecology, etc. But above all, the most interesting subject was conservation. I started realizing what would happen if people kept catching them and there were no more left in the wild. I also joined a Nature-lover organization, so I explored the jungle many times and as a bonus saw hundreds of bird species.
Together with other members, we started to promote birdwatching as part of the organization’s programs. In the beginning, we were involved in a campaign to save Javan hawk-eagle, that is believed to be our national symbol: Garuda. During this campaign, we met some people working for bird conservation in Jogjakarta and Bogor. They agreed to mentor us in developing our capacity in wildlife conservation, especially for birds.
In the meantime, we also had good relationships with local people in Mount Slamet – Central Java, where we were having frequent activities. These people’s lives depended on the forest, including poaching birds. They taught us how to recognize the species from their vocalizations, about their behaviour, their natural food, even how to catch them, etc. Although I was starting to have a different perspective on how to love birds, I have had a good relationship with most of them, and still do today.
Fortunately, I had an opportunity to work in wildlife conservation in Indonesia.
I joined Copenhagen Zoo to work in Baluran National Park, East Java, and try to save some Endangered species such as Banteng, Javan leopard, Javan dhole, Javan warthy-pig, Green peacock etc. Another one is the songbird Grey-backed mynah. Even though we work in the natural habitat of 80% of its population, this species is currently Critically Endangered. It is truly a big challenge, but this is the fact we must face.
I have seen many songbird species go locally extinct in the place where I started birdwatching. In the early 2000s, I could see poachers were still catching Orange-headed trush, Chestnut-capped trush, Greater leafbird or even Hill blue-flycatcher. These birds were caught the most because of the high prices they could be sold for. As a citizen of Banyumas, the city where I live, I am really proud that the scientific name of the Hill Blue-flycatcher (Cyornis banyumas) refers to our city. However today we almost never see these birds in Mount Slamet anymore…”
Next time, he will tell us what he does to help wildlife conservation. Stay tuned!
Earlier in the year, Emma Bowring, a young British artist asked permission to use photos from the Silent Forest website as models to paint.
She wanted to take part in a project being undertaken by “Artists for Conservation”: a 100 ft mural of 8in x 8in canvasses featuring 678 endangered birds of the world!
The mural was used as the centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress taking place in August 2018 in Vancouver, before going tour internationally
Any money raised from the project, including sale of the paintings will go towards conservation projects.
Emma very kindly sent us pictures of the beautiful Nias Hill Myna and Straw Headed Bulbul that she painted, as well as photos of the mural.
Thank you for sharing with us another great contribution to Wildlife conservation!
The Lao Conservation Trust for Wildlife (LCTW) is the only Lao registered non-profit wildlife organisation working on the rescue, rehabilitation, release, sanctuary, conservation of wildlife in Laos – a treasure trove of unique biodiversity.
They have a strong footing in many conservation programmes on a national, regional and global scale and also deliver a strong message of education for Lao people – to engage them in preserving nature.
Partly due to its geographical location, Laos has become a major highway for the illegal wildlife trade with parts coming as far from Africa, through Asia and into high consumer countries, such as China and Vietnam.
The LCTW, with the enforcement authorities and other organisations in Laos, combats this trade and aims at improving enforcement and knowledge about this issue.
Find out more about their work:
Confiscation and Rescue
At the end of July, the LCTW Rescue Team was called upon by the Lao Government to help in the confiscation of a total of 105 Birds, of various species, being kept illegally by a pet store in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
They found the birds in poor conditions in overcrowded cages, full of excrements and little access to food or water. Sadly, some had died before the Rescue Team arrived. The others were brought back to the LCTW Rescue Centre and Wildlife Hospital.
As the rescued birds are all native to Laos, the LCTW team can assess them for rehabilitation and release. They include Red-billed Blue Magpies (Urocissa erythroryncha), various Dove species, various Myna species, Red-breasted Parakeets (Psittacula alexandri) and Red-whiskered Bulbuls (Pycnonotus jocosus).
Thanks to this successful operation, in cooperation with the Department of Forestry Inspections in Vientiane, over 100 birds were saved from illegal wildlife trade!
Even better news: after housing the birds for just a few days, LCTW staff assessed that the majority was healthy and strong enough to be released back to the wild! Two release missions were carried out in secret and protected locations.
First, various species of Doves, Mynas and Red-whiskered bulbuls were released in different sites. Then, the Red-breasted parakeets were released, in another area.
The releases went smoothly with the help of the same government officials who were able to confiscate the animals – a process coming to full circle!
The Red-billed blue magpies were the only birds that could not be released as their flight feathers were damaged and need time to regrow. They are being safely housed at LCTW until the time comes when they can be released, keep an eye on the LCTW Facebook page for a follow up story about this species!
The LCTW is proud to report such a successful end to an incredible story!
However such missions of rescue, rehabilitation and release are an extreme financial burden for non-profit foundations. Donations are always welcome: if you’d like to help, please visit https://lctwildlife.org/donate
Copenhagen Zoo employs several people working on various projects in Indonesia. One of them is Hariyawan Agung Wahyudi, aka Yudi, working on the Banteng program in Baluran National Park.
Yudi is 40 years old, he grew up in Central Java, Indonesia. Although his focus for Copenhagen Zoo is Banteng, he is passionate about birds, like many Indonesians, and has been around them since its youngest age. With a background of conservation biologist, Yudi loves observing them and really knows his species.
He will tell us his story from childhood to now and share his passion of Songbirds.
Discover the first part of his story today.
“I was born in a traditional family in a small town named Kudus, in Central Java province, Indonesia. As many other household in Java, my family had many song birds in cage. As I remember, my father had 29 cages with different species in every cage. I had an obligation to take care of those birds, provide food, water, clean the cage and sometimes give them vitamins to make them sing happily. Our house was filled with birds song every day. Sometimes, my father took me with him to bird markets to see if there is any interesting song bird to complete our collections.
Hunting birds was also a game when we were children. Every day after school, we brought our catapult, exploring sugar plantation or following riverbanks, to shoot birds. If we were lucky and found a nest of spotted doves full of eggs, we took it home and asked our mother to cook it. If she was too busy, we usually had a barbecue party with the gang. Sometimes the nest had chicks inside, we then took them home and nurse them until they were able to fly. We then released them in the wild. Honestly, maybe one out of 50 survived and were able to be set free. But for us, kids, taking care of the birds made us happy.
This was in the 80s, while so many bird species were still easy to find everywhere in Java. In those times, we still had huge open areas such as paddy fields, gardens with trees, as well as wetlands surrounding our village.
In the past 25 years, many open areas have been converted into settlements. The high demand on new houses and other properties, has been compromising the birds’ habitat. Unfortunately, just as the number of buildings, the population of people with the same hobby as me – collecting songbirds – also increased exponentially. In addition to their habitat loss, the birds in the deep forest of Java are threatened by poaching. People always desire uncommon new species. The more unique, the more wanted! This is how many birds, which have been living safely in the deep of the forest for thousands of years, are not safe anymore…” Yudi
Next time, he will tell us about when he discovered birdwatching and how he got involved with conservation. Stay tuned!
Author: Judith Becker (Tierpark und Fossilium Bochum, Germany)
A new exhibit, focusing on the Silent Forest Campaign, was launched on August 10th 2018. Visitors will find it in our conservation-exhibition hall which is dedicated to the “bee”.
The displayed diorama shows a river bank in the South East Asian forests where songbirds are kept in small cages and traded on the market. Information panels raise awareness to the songbird crisis, the affected species and to the aims of the Silent Forest campaign.
In addition to the South East Asian songbirds, we also want to inform our visitors about domestic endangered songbirds, what causes their populations to decline as well as ways to engage and help. Thus, both topics are included in our environmental education programs and guided tours.
Silent Forest was even reported in the local press!
Further activities, such as special activity days dedicated to the campaign are planned too. Visit our website to know all about it.
In addition to Songbirds, Owls are also traded as pets in Asian markets.
The phenomenon, known as the “Harry-Potter-Effect” (Nijman and Nekaris) due to the popular J. K. Rowling books and films, has soared to new heights in many Asian countries but particularly in Indonesia.
Recently the Indonesian group Profauna seems to have discovered another grim purpose for captive Owls.
Trappers use a live Owl tied to a stick in the forest. It is quickly subject to intense mobbing from small Songbirds desperately trying to vacate the potential predator out of their territory. As the Owl doesn’t move away, the Songbirds get bolder, approach it and get caught in the glue traps and nets set by the trappers.
This practice is wrong is so many ways! Not only is the capture of both Songbirds and Owls in Indonesia evidently not sustainable. It is also horrible for the nocturnal Owl to be trapped in bright daylight and for the Songbirds to be trapped next to a predator. There is evidence that the Owls and Songbirds often do not survive the ordeal and that trappers often don’t bother removing the corpses. This led to the discovery of this horrendous practice.
Animal welfare and biodiversity protection are noble pursuits of a modern society and as everywhere, it needs the guardianship of education, Government and legislation to succeed…
The Government of Indonesia has taken a huge step towards saving their native songbirds!
The revised list of nationally protected species, including most Songbirds, which are threatened by the trade, lays the framework for further activities and enforcement to protect Songbird populations. It however also provides the opportunity to transform the culture of enjoying songbirds in to a sustainable activity, which is also available for future generations to come.
Unfortunately there is significant opposition, as one could imagine, especially from commercial entities making profit from the Songbird trade. But their complaints are shortsighted as the current trade is literally depleting its own foundation – the Songbirds are disappearing and will not be here for future generations to see or hear if things don’t change.
The Silent Forest Campaign applauds the Indonesian Government for taking these steps now, before it is really too late.
We encourage all involved to stay strong and continue the process on the path started. For Songbirds and for people who enjoy Songbirds.
With the highest respect and appreciation on behalf of the conservation campaign, Silent Forest.
The day had an artistic angle. The artist Rolf Jahn painted his “crazy birds” on a wall as a permanent artwork. Tattoo artists from four studios immortalized bird passion in a very original way and generously donated their fees to the Silent Forest campaign. Uwe Reetz – singer, songwriter and animator – helped by talented kids performed, in a German version, the beautiful songbird song from Ashley Fayth, in cooperation with Chester Zoo.
In support of the “Silent Forest” campaign, ZOO Wrocław (Poland) is organizing many activities for all age classes.
Last May, the first competition of knowledge for primary schools from all over Poland took place at the zoo. Thirty students from several cities participated after having learned about Songbirds on the zoo website. Very detailed questions were asked such as “Which species is the symbol of the islands of Nias?” and “What is the name of the national park where Bali Mynas’ breeding is carried out?”. Would you know the answers??
The winners were thrilled to meet the birds’ zookeeper and Balbinka, the owl!
Some events are currently carried out and you can still participate!
Art competition from 04.2018 to 30.09.2018: make a sculpture of a Silent Forest flagship species.
Photography competition from 03.2018-28.02.2019: take pictures of birds that are found in indicated places all over the world.
Other will soon start. Make sure to follow Zoo Wroclaw’s schedule so you don’t miss them.
A recycled birdhouse competition, related to Bird Watching journal, will happen from 01.11.2018 to 31.03.2019. A charity concert will be organized around October 2018 and a specific Silent Forest day will be celebrated in 2019.
Any other day of the year, visitors can still learn about Songbirds in the Africarium, where a Silent Forest exhibit was set up, and support the Campaign by purchasing a cute souvenir at the giftshop!
Commemorative medal vending machines are in use in several European zoos already, selling coins with their favourite animals on them. So why not using them in favour of the Songbirds? Especially when children really love to bring souvenirs from their zoo visit!
Wroclaw Zoo (Poland) brought this awesome idea to life in cooperation with Cullinan company and Liberec Zoo. They have already helped spreading this fundraising tool to other zoos in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Each vending machine sells medals for 1,5 – 2 EUR a piece (depending on the country) and the profit is being donated to the Silent Forest Campaign by both zoos and supplier!
An easy way to please your kids and help Songbirds conservation!
If zoos from other countries (preferably from Germany, France, Austria or Hungary) are interested in having the commemorative medal vending machine in their institutions, the supplier can provide both machine and coins without having to pay any extra costs.
For more information, please contact the Silent Forest Campaign office in Zoo Liberec: email@example.com.
On 17th and 24th of June, the Silent Forest days took place in Mulhouse zoo.
How can we draw our visitors’ intention on Songbirds? That’s not so easy: birds are shy and sometimes hide when people come in their aviary… Thus we played birdcall recordings in our aviary to lure our Sumatran laughingtrush and Bali myna closer and make them sing!
Once close enough to observe them, people were more curious and receptive about what we had to share: the Sonbirds’ biology, their fate in the wild, how EAZA and its Members help to protect these animals and fight poaching etc.
Adults were invited to watch three videos talking about the Songbird crisis and deforestation, while kids participated to games on the same subject, bird origami workshops, colouring pictures or puzzles.
Discussions were extended from the Silent Forest campaign aims to local passerines, which are traditionally poached in some French areas and are confronted with environmental destruction in all Europe. Many visitors even asked how they could help passerines to live in their garden, giving us the opportunity to make a bound between the Silent forest and Let it grow campaigns!
We were very excited to highlight the unknown Songbirds for this campaign! These days also gave us the opportunity to bring up many different conservation subjects and fulfil an important mission of zoos!
The race is now over and was successfully finished by our two athletic birds enthusiasts!
Here are some updates from Joost Lammers (Birdpark Avifauna, The Netherlands).
“June 9th, 7:30 am, we began our Trois Ballons adventure with great spirits and knowing we already collected more than €600,- for the Nias Hill Myna project. More than 9 hours later and 200 kilometres further we were both pretty exhausted and still had to do the final climb to Planche des Belles Filles, a well-known finish place from the Tour de France. Especially the last stretch to the finish with percentages up to 20% was extremely painful but we both succeeded and finished in a very acceptable time of 10 hours and a handful of minutes, both earning the silver medal. After finishing the race the contributions still came in and in total we raised €1182,77 for the Nias Hill Myna.”
Congratulations for the incredible achievement and many thanks for the contributions!
We are excited to report some of the amazing activities around the Silent Forest Campaign taking place at the Zoological and Botanical Garden Wilhelma in Stuttgart (Germany).
They have set up a beautiful exhibition in one of their historic greenhouses. It was launched for Conservation Day on the 21st of May 2018 and raises awareness of the Asian Songbird crisis as well as the plight of the European songbirds. The activities accompanying the exhibition throughout the year include a drawing contest, early morning birding tours for families as well as workshops, where nesting boxes, seed dispensers or bird baths can be assembled and taken home.
Many children participated in the drawing contest on “How to help the Songbirds”. They won tickets to the Zoo as well as bird books and nesting boxes.
A fundraising lottery was organised and yielded 3000€ in just 4 days!
Finally, German speakers can read the article describing the campaign in the Wilhelma magazine by clicking on its cover.
Inspiring!!! Thank you so much for your support and involvement in the Silent Forest Campaign!
Authors: Simon Bruslund (Heidelberg Zoo, Germany) and Andrew Owen (Chester Zoo, UK)
Did you know that Green Magpies fade from vivid green to a turquoise blue when they don’t receive the correct diet?
It has long been known that the plumage of Green Magpies of the genus Cissa fade in colour when they are kept in captivity and it has always been unclear if it causes the birds any ill effects.
Although often pondering about this problem, it was, as is often the case, a coincidence which provided at least part of the answer. In Weltvogelpark in Walsrode in 2009 a plant-based supplement was given to other birds for other reasons by Simon. However, the Common Green Magpies in the collection were also given part of the same food for practical reasons. The transformation from the blue hue we had become accustomed to, back to a brilliant green was quite a surprise.
It was Andrew who picked up on the notion that we might be on to something as he tried it out on a much larger scale with the team in Cikananga, Java who had just started the conservation-breeding programme for the critically endangered Javan Green Magpie.
Several of the birds rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, which formed the foundation for the breeding programme were a dull blue colour, indicating they had been kept in cages on a poor diet for some time, while other birds were bright green, suggesting they had only recently been caught from the wild.
Research indicated that the Green Magpies’ bright green plumage is achieved with the help of a yellow carotenoid pigment called lutein, which is found in many leafy green plants. Without lutein in their diet, Green Magpies fade to pale turquoise-blue – the structural colour of their feathers.
But Green Magpies don’t eat plants, they feed mostly on large insects, insects which we must assume eat lots of lutein-rich plants.
To help keep the birds green, a powdered and dried flower did the trick, a supplement made from the marigold flower was added to the diet of the insects, which form part of the Magpies diet (the insects were also fed lots of leafy greens). The combination of blue and yellow perfectly produces Cissa green.
We now know that the vivid green colours of the Green Magpies of the genus Cissa and some other green insect-eating birds are maintained with the addition of the pigment lutein. Without this, the birds’ vibrant plumage will fade. What we still do not know for sure is if these components also fulfill other functions for the bird, for example it is thought lutein may play an important role in the immune system. We now also believe that the pigment is so unstable, that the birds will also fade in bright sunlight. These birds naturally live in dark dense evergreen forests, where sunlight rarely penetrates to the forest floor.
The support given by EAZA institutions to the Silent Forest campaign helps us conserve these wonderful birds and in doing so, learn more about their biology.
We hope that sometime in the future, we will be able return the Javan Green Magpie to their mountain forest home.
We caught up with one of our Conservation Scholars and PhD student from Manchester Metropolitan University, Harry Marshall, to learn more about his research on the songbird crisis and the drivers affecting it.
South East Asian songbirds are currently facing a major extinction crisis evidently driven by the huge scale of trade in wild birds apparent in the region. In Indonesia, millions of birds are being caught and traded to supply the demand for keeping caged songbirds, a phenomenon that is strongly embedded within the local culture, and for new trends such as participating in songbird singing competitions.
Understanding the importance of songbird keeping within the local communities is essential to the creation of mitigation techniques. With an interdisciplinary background in anthropology and conservation, Chester Zoo Conservation Scholar Harry Marshall is investigating the social aspects of the trade using techniques such as questionnaire surveys, online sampling methods, and focus groups to create a picture of what drives people in Indonesia to keep songbirds. He says:
“We’ve known for a long time now that the biggest drivers of population declines in wild species are generally human activity. However, recently people are starting to realise that it’s hard to make any difference in conservation unless you are working with people and looking directly at the interactions between humans and wildlife that cause such declines.”
Once all the data are collected, Harry will analyse them and will present and discuss the results with the local communities involved in the project. By learning more about the local culture and people’s perceptions, we are hoping to facilitate change and promote more sustainable alternatives such as buying captive-bred songbirds instead of wild-caught ones.
Trade is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss at the moment and understanding the underlying reasons pushing people to exploit wildlife is crucial to find ways to mitigate its impact!
When visiting Heidelberg zoo, you will find three permanent Silent Forest exhibitions: at the entrance, in the middle of the zoo and in the peasantry’s aviary. In addition, a mobile manned display table is active as often as possible and showcases the Songbird Crisis with dedicated flyers and several educative panels (provided by the campaign and one “homemade” panel on “SAVE the MAGIAO” project).
These exhibitions were launched on May 13th, a day dedicated to Songbirds, and celebrated for the first time in Heidelberg Zoo. For the occasion, a Silent Forest Campaign fundraising was organized and resulted in more than 500€ raised.
A talkative Myna attracted the visitor’s attention! Not a real one of course. A lifelike toy, knitted by Simon Bruslund’s mother, with an electronic voice repeater inside. A great opportunity to start a dialogue about birds.
That day there were many opportunities to learn about the fantastic songbirds and their threats: the film Tainted Love by Eleanor Paris was playing; scientific experiments with UV light and bird calls proving the extraordinary senses of songbirds were performed; kids could create masks, their personal Silent Forest button or draw birds. The local Birdlife Partner, NABU-Heidelberg, was invited and very excited to participate.
Since Songbird Day, we are still collecting funds for the campaign, via a dedicated coin funnel or by selling bird stickers. These are “sold”, whenever possible, against a donation of 0.50€ minimum and can be placed on the large wall of the main exhibition showing an empty forest. By the end of the campaign we hope this “forest” will be full of symbolically released birds.
Sincere thanks and congratulations to our current staff member Angus Sünner and our former staff member Nikolina Rupic who heartwarmingly collected funds for the campaign at their wedding party last fall! A generous donation of 230 € was made.
May was the month of meetings for EAZA bird people: first the Threatened Asian Songbird Alliance (TASA) met to discuss current songbird project developments; then the Joint Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Chair meetings took place for an update on global wildlife population management; finally, the Birds TAG’s meetings happened all in the beautiful setting of Budapest, kindly hosted by the Budapest zoo.
Especially the Passerine TAG who decided to use two full days to develop a part of their Regional Collection Plan (RCP) was very busy with evaluating the exhaustive list of species according to the new EAZA population management structure.
The new RCP process is thorough and evidence-based to determine priorities; hence it is very resource and time demanding.
Considering all the 6600 different Songbird species is therefore not feasible in a two-day meeting and the portion of reviewed species had to be limited. Given the Silent Forest campaign and the ongoing extinction crisis in Asia the TAG focused its efforts on Asian species. In close cooperation between the EAZA Executive Office (TAG liaison and Population biologists) and the TAG regional collection planning team, the number had been “short listed” to 145 species, prior to the meeting, using the previous RCP, the technical fact sheets of the campaign and many hours of reviews and research.
During the meeting, the experts discussed and identified the potential roles that these species could play as an ex situ population – e.g. conservation, education, research etc. – and subsequently determined the priorities and goals for each one. Finally, the group determined if an active management is needed to achieve these goals and issued their recommendations to establish or not a European Ex situ Programme (EEP).
For specialists, the staggering number of 23 EEPs recommended, of which 15 are completely new, may seem daunting. But it is actually not that many more programmes compared to the recommendations in the previous RCP. By grouping some species, it is becoming even more resource effective.
What has changed? Future songbird EEPs can have different levels of management and other specific tasks, which were not always covered in our old structures. For instance, Leafbirds and White-eyes have been suggested as EEPs with a research purposes. However, the participation and cooperation of all EAZA Members involved in a programme is still mandatory, unless specified otherwise, for the benefit of all.
As a result of this meeting, a very first new EEP application form was filled and will be submitted. Which other species could it be besides the Silent Forest campaign flagship and logo species – the Javan Green Magpie?