Planning for Songbirds, a deep dive into zoo conservationists’ work

Author: Simon Bruslund (Heidelberg Zoo, Germany)

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?

Racing for Mynas

As you may know, the critically endangered Nias Hill myna (Gracula robusta) is one of the six Silent Forest Campaign flagship species and the project “Save Magiao: Nias Hill Myna Conservation Breeding Center” is entirely dedicated to its conservation.

To raise some money and help achieve the financial goals of this project, Dennis Appels and Joost Lammers, bird enthusiasts working in Birdpark Avifauna (The Netherlands), have started fundraising via the sponsorship of their participation to the Trois Ballons, one of the toughest one-day cycling races in Europe. The 214-km race with a total of 4400-m difference in altitude will take place in the French Vosges on the 9th of June.

Sponsor them in this brave challenge and help them save the Hill mynas!
For more information and/or to make donations, please click here.

Thank you for your support and good luck to Dennis and Joost!!

 

Help us collect binoculars!

Author: Barbara Tesarova (Zoo Liberec, Czech Republic) 

Liberec Zoo is collecting old, but still functional, binoculars! When you visit us, don’t forget to bring yours or the ones given by your colleagues, schoolmates, friends… Leave them at the check-in desk at the entrance. They will be kept at the Silent Forest campaign office before being distributed to eco-centers across Indonesia via Green-books.org.  

This NGO aims at raising awareness of nature and sustainable practices in communities using children´s education and books as a starting point. Your discarded binoculars will help to advertise “birding”, to inspire local people in Asia to appreciate their environment and to stimulate their will to protect it. Also, well-guided birdwatching tours are trendy these days. Tourists enjoy them, creating a good opportunity for local guides to earn money. 

Several zoos are involved in this project. Don’t hesitate to ask your favorite zoo if they are and spread the word!

FREE AS A BIRD – Bird watching trips for Indonesian urban families

Author: Frantisek Pribrsky (Ostrava zoo, Czech Republic)

Indonesia has one of the highest number of bird species listed as threatened. Nevertheless, thousands of these endangered species are still being sold on local markets. Every fifth Indonesian household keeps caged birds as pet…

Due to socioeconomic reasons, there is lack of outdoor culture and families rarely have the luxury of going on trips in natural environment. Therefore, contacts with nature are limited and so is the population’s empathy toward wildlife.

However, this might change in the short future, thanks to the Disney Foundation! FREE AS A BIRD, a movement initiated by Ostrava Zoo, received a WAZA Nature Connect Grant. The 15.000 CHF will help support its goals aiming at shifting the locals’ mind by allowing families from urban areas to watch birds in the wild rather than in a cage.

Our main objective is to create bird-watching and educational activities (e.g. bird and plant identification using binoculars and fun-to-handle worksheets; eco-games; drama play etc.) to encourage local children and their parents towards long-lasting devotion to nature and environment. Experienced birding guides from Burung Indonesia (Indonesian BirdLife Partner) will be involved in this project.

With a deeper connection with local nature and practical concrete examples of how to care and conserve limited natural sources, we hope to achieve a mind shift with a real impact to the participants daily lives and behaviours. Providing a glimpse of what nature has to offer might help local populations understand the negative effects of poaching and bring them a desire to protect Birds in their natural habitat.

Will you hear us?

Remember Tainted love, the great documentary by University student Eleanor Paish? A year has passed already… The film has collected awards on festivals, subtitles have been translated to several languages and it´s being screened in several institutions over the world including Indonesia.

We are grateful the Silent Forest Campaign continues to inspire creativity.

Will you hear us, a new Belgian documentary investigating the meaning of the caged-bird tradition in Indonesia and its evolution through time, might be produced soon.

But the filmmakers need your help to bring the project to life and support the cost of the making stages from transportation, filming equipment, translating interviews to editing our final images.

Your contribution can help them show the world the immense beauty of these birds and shine a light on their dark future.

Please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/286889863/will-you-hear-us-the-film/description and together, let’s make a difference.

International Songbird Day 2018: Celebrating songbirds across Europe

Authors: Julia Migné (Chester Zoo, UK) and Lucia Schröder (Cologne Zoo, Germany)

As you might know, consumption of wild-caught South-east Asian Songbirds for trade, as pets, singing competitions, status symbols, religious ceremonies, traditional medicine and food are pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Zoos across Europe have joined forces to help tackle this crisis through the Silent Forest Campaign.

This year, the campaign participants are redoubling the efforts and celebrating International Songbird Day on 13 May with a wide range of activities in support of the campaign!

After having heard the finest of European singing at the Eurovision contest the day before, we will add to the singing frenzy for another day and will raise awareness about the Songbird crisis.

Cologne Zoo started the festivity on 6 May.

Starting before opening time, the participants enjoyed the special early morning atmosphere during an early bird guided tour to observe native songbirds with field guides, Members of bird life Germany (NABU).

The visitors could then take part in creative activities, such as face-painting, sheet coloring and mask hand-crafting, or behind the scenes guided tours to visit the breeding aviaries. Information about the campaign, “crazy birds” and native birds were available.

Art was predominant during the day. 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 – performed, in a German version, the beautiful songbird song from Ashley Fayth, in cooperation with Chester Zoo.

6300 visitors attended the event! What a success!

Next week-end, Songbird Day will be celebrated in several institutions.

On Sunday 13 from 10 am to 5 pm, Heidelberg Zoo will be offering information, activities, games and fun around Bird conservation and the Silent Forest campaign. Bird stickers will be distributed against a donation. Visitors will be able to stick them onto a large Rainforest wall so that hopefully, at the end of the campaign, the symbolic forest will be full of birds again!

From Sunday 13 to Friday 18 May, Chester Zoo is organizing activities to learn more about illegal bird markets and the different conservation actions in the zoo and in the Asian field (see detailed schedule below).

Many more zoos participate to the Silent Forest Campaign, don’t hesitate to visit your favorite zoo’s website or Facebook page to see if activities are organised next week-end.

 

When Art students and Lisbon Zoo join forces to help Songbirds

Author: Maria Antonieta Costa (Lisbon Zoo, Portugal)

Lisbon ZOO challenged a class of 12th graders from the Secondary Art School António Arroio in Lisbon – finalist students of the Communication Design Course – during their Training in Work Context to imagine ways to raise awareness of the Songbird crisis.

The challenge was to present a leaflet for visitors illustrating a story that will be the basis of the campaign activities in the zoo.

After a session on zoo’s conservation work and Songbirds, as well as a visit at the zoo to observe birds, the students worked on the proposals.

In addition to creating amazing stories, they surprised us with beautiful serigraphs for each of the species whose sale will revert to the campaign!

Congratulations to all of them for this great initiative!

 

Rare songbirds arrive at Newquay Zoo

Author: Newquay Zoo, United Kingdom

One of the most endangered songbirds in the world has arrived at Newquay Zoo. The Cornish charity zoo is one of only five collections in Europe where Javan green magpies can be seen, making them the rarest species at the zoo.

Native to Java, in Indonesia, the Javan green magpie maintains its vibrant green feathers through a diet rich in vitamins and pigments like luteins. Senior Bird Keeper Gary Ward: “The most important challenge in caring for the green magpies is making sure the insects they eat are loaded with the correct amount of luteins and nutrients to keep their feathers that lovely green.” These magpies are omnivorous –they like a bit of ripe papaya along with insects and mice.

Part of the Corvid family and closely related to crows, the Javan green magpie has a very extensive vocabulary, making it a prime target for the trade in songbirds. Ward: “I hear a different call from them every day, they’re amazing, noisy birds.”

As a result of ongoing trapping pressure from the songbird trade and suitable habitat lost to palm oil plantations, the population of this species is falling at an alarming rate. Its future is likely to be in zoos.   Newquay Zoo’s latest exhibit ‘Gems of the Jungle’ has been created to highlight the issues surrounding the caged bird trade.

The Zoo hopes to help the Javan green magpie by breeding this pair. Although they are currently not old enough, Ward comments: “I’ve noticed them beginning to dance around one another, a sign of courting, so hopefully they could breed soon. We will provide her with the materials she needs to build a nest in the hope that we can begin to play our part in the conservation of this magnificent species. It is imperative that we learn about these birds to prevent their extinction.”

Tune in a radio that you won´t turn off

Authors: Jan Kužník (Technet.cz, Prague, Czech Republic) and Matyáš Adam (Zoo Liberec, Czech Republic)

Birds, insects, hedgehogs, frogs, wildlife. Thousands of animals on Slow Radio http://www.slowradio.cz/en.

After the winter break, Slow Radio starts again. It broadcasts live, continuously and through professional microphones from a secret place in the middle of a bird paradise in southern Bohemia. Listen to it from your desktop or mobile phone.

Slow Radio started to broadcast last spring in cooperation with Technet.cz and the Czech Society for Ornithology. Thanks to the Silent Forest Campaign, that became a partner of the project this year, Slow Radio can cross the Czech borders and people from around the world will be able to listen to our Songbirds.

The best listening is always early in the morning when nature wakes up or in the evening before the birds pause. At night, listening changes literally to a horror radio drama without words.

When listening to the radio, you can think about the state of our nature. Slow Radio is evidence that there are still places in our country where nature is the dominant, but it is not completely free from the noise caused by human activity. You will sometime hear human voices and the noise of cars, aircraft or agricultural machines. Although the main road is many kilometers away from the broadcasting station, you can hear the truck over the loud voices of the Songbirds.

Silence is never part of the forest.

The sensitive microphones do not only record birds singing, but also all possible sounds – the movement of millions of leaves and twigs in the breeze or wind, the buzzing of hundreds of thousands of flies, mosquitoes, beatles, the rustle of various animals in leaves and grasses … and, of course, drops of rains or sound of thunder.

Put your headphones on and step into the Czech Republic forests…

Silent Forest hits the headlines

Congratulations to Cologne Zoo, Germany, for their significant involvement in the Silent Forest Campaign!

This time, it is via colorful articles in the Kölner Zoo Magazin (edition Summer 2018) that they raise awareness of Southeast Asian Songbirds status but also of their European counterparts situation. They especially talk about the Bird of the year 2018: the Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

German speakers, you can read the complete magazine here.

Also have a look at page 11, listing all the Bird-related events happening in Cologne Zoo in 2018!

Buy Art, Save All the Birds

 

No need to be a big zoo or non-profit organization to raise awareness for wildlife conservation and help fight the Songbirds crisis: meet Alyssa Rice and her amazing All the birds project.

Passionate about animals, Alyssa promotes conservation through her drawings. She suggested three conservation projects to her followers who voted for the Silent Forest Campaign! We are so grateful for that! Thank you so much!

The very realistic and super cute illustrations of Birds are based on the most recent International Ornithological Committee Life List+.

Alyssa sends stickers and prints of her drawings against donations, that will be generously offered to the campaign.

Donations can be made until the 20th of April 2018, please find all the information here.

 

What a great initiative!

 

 

 

World Sparrow Day – what is your zoo doing for wild Sparrows?

 

Author: Ruth Dieckmann (Cologne Zoo, Germany)

©Werner Scheurer

The 20th of March 2018 is World Sparrow Day!

Sparrows are in serious decline in Europe, not because of the Asian Songbird Crisis or trade but because of their decreasing access to food and nesting grounds near Human settlements.

©Betina Küchenhoff

 

In Germany, the populations of House sparrows (Passer domesticus) have declined by 30% on average. In some cities, it is even by more than 50% over the past 25 years.

©Rolf Schlosser

 

Zoos often provide better living spaces and the ground of zoo’s sometimes holds above average densities of Sparrows similar to the way populations were several decades ago.

 

Together with local environmental authorities, the local birdlife partner Cologne Zoo started a very successful Sparrow project last year as a part of the previous EAZA campaign “Let it Grow”.

A photo competition, an exhibition about sparrows, plantings in schoolyards, building nesting boxes and a children’s book about the life of a Sparrow are some of the activities achieved. The project was recently certificated as UN project on Biodiversity.

Wouldn’t it be great if more zoos presented their projects for Sparrows next year on the 20th of March?

12th of March 2018 Alle Vöglein sind schon da…

Author: Constanze Mager (Burgers’ Zoo, Arnhem, The Netherlands)

Even though the whole world seems to be skyping – and the campaign team certainly does quite regularly skype with each other – a face to face meeting every once in a while is really useful, too. Unfortunately, travelling across Europe to see each other is rather time-consuming, costly and not too great for our CO2 footprint. All arguments for ourselves and for our directors to keep the number of factual meetings low.

But, when a few of us come together anyway for another meeting, we surely take our chance to stick our heads together and discuss.
Lately, such an opportunity arose during the ‘German speaking zooeducators conference’ (in short VZP, which is of course an abbreviation that absolutely makes no sense in English!), in the Northwestern city of Nordhorn. Almost a hundred zooeducators gathered at Nordhorn zoo for a three days meeting. Amongst them, three educators active in the specialist group for the Silent Forest Campaign.

Lucia from Cologne zoo gave a talk on the campaign during the conference. After the official part with presentations and workshops, we quickly met to chat by. Nicolina from Karlsruhe Zoo created bird masks, drawings and material to be used in schools. Also, she has written down an interview with a conservationist busy at the bird rescue and breeding centre Cikananga on Java. That interview will be placed on the website soon.

We discussed the reaction of our education colleagues on the campaign and brainstormed about further steps in creating and translating material as well as evaluating zoo visitors’ knowledge about the campaign’s focus species and goals.

So, even if it rather seems quiet from our group at the moment: be sure that still a lot is going on behind the scenes!

Hunted – Trapped – Killed: Illegal Bird-Catching

Author: Simon Bruslund (Heidelberg Zoo, Heidelberg, Germany)

The Erfurt Museum of Natural History, Germany, is presenting an exhibition about illegal bird trapping and have included extensive information on the Silent Forest Campaign. For this purpose, the Museum signed up as a non-EAZA participant to the campaign in preparation of the exhibition. This is an excellent showcase of not only the Asian Songbird Crisis but also of how Songbirds were and are still being trapped right here in Europe.

Not only zoos, but other zoological institutions can participate in EAZA Conservation campaigns, and help informing the public and raising awareness about conservation issues. The exhibition called “Hunted – trapped – killed: Illegal bird-catching in Europe” at the Natural history museum of Erfurt is a perfect example of that.

As the dramatic title indicates, the exhibition mainly focuses on the problems with illegal hunting and killing of birds in the Mediterranean and other countries in Europe. In the wake of the exhibition, the Asian songbird crisis is also addressed with pictures and some of the campaign material. The world class taxidermists of the museum also prepared a singing White-rumped Shama (Kittacincla malabarica) in the setting of an original Javanese bamboo birdcage.

“We had key species of the Silent forest campaign in our collection, so it seemed appropriate to take part in the campaign” says conservation biologist Florian Schäfer, who curated the exhibition. A threaded bird species links the Asian Songbird Crises to Europe: The Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola), which occurs from northeastern Europe to far-eastern Asia, have shown a dramatic decline of over 90% within only 30 years throughout its range due to unsustainable trapping.

The exhibition is running from 09.02.2018 until 02.04.2018.  It’s not too late to check it out!

The Elusive Mountain Spirit of the Omei Mountains

Author: Chris Green (Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire, UK)

The Emei Shan Liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis) also known as Mt. Omei Babblers are one of five, restricted range, species in the genus which are among the smaller members of the Laughingthrush family.

This species is internationally protected in CITES Appendix II and also locally fully protected in the province of Sichuan. Since 1999, the export of wild birds from China has been banned, but this legislation is difficult to enforce and birds have been seen in bird markets as far away as Sumatra in recent years. This illustrates the very real need to continue working with this species in a sustainable captive breeding program.

In their natural habitat, in the sacred Omei Mountains, they are more often heard than seen. Yet, the open access paper co-authored by Simon Dowell (Chester zoo, UK) describes their nesting behaviour in the wild.

They are smallish and lively birds with a distinctive sexual dimorphism with the male’s colourful undertail-coverts. Their lovely voice is melodic and moving and is frequently heard in an aviary.

Emei Shan Liocichlas do very well in heavily planted aviaries with dense vegetation suitable for nesting. Plants such as bamboo, conifer and laurel are ideal and provide the right structure to allow the birds to build their cup-shaped nests. Nest baskets can be provided for the birds to build their nests in and they will prefer to use coconut fibre and fine grasses as nest material. These birds can be fed on a diet of good quality insectivore mix and a variety of fruit chopped into small cubes so the birds can easily swallow it. During breeding, they require supplement of good quality live food.

We currently have 20 collections holding Emei Shan Liocichlas and the population is growing. However, it is not yet demographically stable. More holders are therefore needed so breeding can continue.

There are no new institutions on this year’s waiting list yet: a perfect opportunity to add this interesting and campaign relevant species to your collection!

Dear fellow aviculturists, if you feel you can house a pair of this enigmatic babbler species please get in touch with me at chrisgreen@cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk!

What if saving Songbirds started in Schools?

Author: Simon Bruslund (Heidelberg Zoo, Heidelberg, Germany)

When going home to Denmark for Christmas, my 7-year-old nephew begged me to visit his class and talk about Animals. Soon his older brother (12) and sister (10) did too.

As the date came closer, I started to get nervous. Is talking to kids the same as presenting to adults? What if I don’t catch their attention? What if the lecture turns into pure chaos? These were just some of the questions going through my mind. Although I am used to speaking in front of crowds (and crows) mostly in zoos and often supported by an animal behind me or on the arm, I’m not an Educator… What more my dear sister thought it was a grand idea to call the local island newspaper…

However, as I often talk about how important Environmental Education is, here I was!

My first lecture with the youngest class was on Spiders. With a few pictures (such as an oversized Heteropoda with a frog in its jaws), several fun facts and 20 out of 22 kids calling me “Uncle Simon”, I managed to make almost everyone in the room appreciate jumping spiders by the time I was done (not sure about the teacher though).

With the 10 and 12-year olds, I decided to talk about the Silent Forest campaign. I introduced the subject with the great film Tainted Love by Eleanor Paris and in my backhand the educative materials from the campaign: the origami sheets from Chester, the coloring sheets, the educative panels in different languages as well as masses of pictures, videos and PowerPoints ready to go.

I can truly say I had never been asked so many questions! I only managed to show a fraction of my materials and still we spend most of the next scheduled lecture (math) talking about Songbirds. Questions turned into a discussion and indeed, it became a dialogue more than a lecture.

Many of the things they asked I had never even thought about before. But with pictures of the main species involved and some basic facts, I could quickly provide graphic answers which seemed to satisfy the class.

I was surprised how important facts were for the kids. “How much does a White-rumped Shama cost – How much is that in crowns”, “How many people live on Java”, “How many Hill Mynas are left in the wild”, “How big is a Sumatran Laughingthrush”. I found it was important to compare the amounts and sizes to something they already know, the value of a hotdog or a house or the size of a Common Blackbird. Other questions circled around the hopelessness of the situation. “Why can we just not buy all and set them free”, “My grandpa have two Canaries can we send them to Indonesia so they don’t catch wild ones”, “Why doesn’t the police do anything”, etc. I could painfully feel the frustration if I could not provide an answer with a pinch of hope in it.

Morsø Folkeblad, 13/12/2017

Although no one called me Uncle Simon there (not even those who are technically entitled to do so), all the children were thinking about Songbirds and how to save them during at least these 90 minutes. The newspaper reporter was also clearly impressed as she managed to fill a full page with this experience about the Silent Forest campaign.

Altogether, my slight apprehension of the lecture turned into a lot of hope and a renewed sense of the importance of what we do in Zoos. It is crucial to keep showing kids and the public in general what is happening in the “world of the animals” … in our world.

Both classes are now still working with the Silent Forest materials and one of them convinced their music teacher to make a song “just like in Chester zoo”.

A great day for Songbirds and not a bad way to spend a day of your vacation…

 

Silent Forest presentation for yearcard holders

Author: Constanze Mager (Burgers’ Zoo, Arnhem, The Netherlands)

Imagine a lecture hall full of people eager to learn more about the Asian songbird crises and the EAZA conservation campaign… the dream of every campaigner, the dream of every educator. On the evening of 17th of January 2018, this dream came true in Royal Burgers’ Zoo, the Netherlands. 260 listeners showed up for an evening lecture on tropical birds and the campaign.

Head Zookeeper of the world-famous Bush, Christiaan Luttenberg, warmed up the crowd with his talk on the challenges that zookeepers face in the husbandry of often rare tropical birds in a huge mixed enclosure like the Burgers’ Bush. It is the place where we keep different campaign target and focus species, like the White-rumped shama, the Asian fairy bluebird and the Blue-crowned laughingthrush. Then I was giving a talk on the campaign background, the conservation projects the campaign will collect money for and the activities we are going to enrol in the zoo for the campaign.

After the presentation, one of the listeners, a passionate birder and world traveller came up to me and said, ‘Well, I did already know that there is a bird crisis going on in Asia, but I had no idea it was this urgent to act.’

As we also sold buttons and fridge magnets with the campaign logo that evening (participants can get the mall for those buttons in the resource section of the website), we made already our first 101 Euro for the campaign!

 

 

Another sad day for the Southeast Asian Songbirds

Three smugglers were arrested on Tuesday the 16th of January 2018 in Melaka, Malaysia, by the Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency. Unfortunately, the authorities intercepted the fleeing boat after the men had thrown overboard 300 birds. Only three of them could be saved from drowning. According to a press statement, the birds were likely smuggled over land from Viet Nam to Thailand before heading to Indonesia for sale on illegal markets. The species are currently being identified but most of them are believed to be Songbirds.

Officers recovering the drowned birds in Melaka, Malaysia © Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency

This unfortunate incident is another reminder of the significance of conservation campaigns, such as Silent Forest, launched last September by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, TRAFFIC, BirdLife International and the IUCN Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group. It should encourage us all to work twice as hard to inform on and fight against the trade of these iconic species.

For more information, click here.