Legal and Illegal Songbird Trade in Lombok, Indonesia

A recent study carried out by Monitor Conservation Research Society which is a research-partner of the Silent Forest Group shows that Indonesia’s large-scale bird trade spans beyond the country’s main islands and highlights the illegality of most of the observed trade.

Carried out in the city of Mataram, on the island of Lombok in West

Lemon-bellied White-eyes in a bird market in Java. Image by Simon Bruslund

Nusa Tenggara, the study found more than 10,000 birds of 108 species across only five bird-market visits and express particular concern over the high numbers of Lemon-bellied White-eyes (Zosterops chloris) observed.

Of the 10,000 recorded birds, 378 were fully protected under Indonesia’s wildlife laws. Another 8,208 birds were found to be traded in violation of set harvest quotas and without permits. The fact that more than eighty percent of the recorded birds were traded in violation of Indonesia’s existing wildlife laws is highly worrying.

Find more information about the study here and access the paper which was published in the Indonesian Journal of Applied Environmental Studies here


Conservation breeding and the most threatened (song)birds in Asia—ten years on

An article by Silent Forest Group members Nigel Collar and Roland Wirth in the magazine of the Oriental Bird Club “BirdingAsia” is fresh off the press.

The current article 2022 Collar Wirth Conservation breeding for Asian songbirds is focussed on the Asian Songbird Crisis provides a great overview on the current progress with a special reference to all the in-region ex-situ efforts which is going on.

This new paper it is intended as a follow-up on the article cited below which was published a decade ago also involving several members of the Silent Forest Group:

Collar, N.J., Gardner, L., Jeggo, D.F., Marcordes, B., Owen, A., Pagel, T., Pes, T., Vaidl, A., Wilkinson, R. & Wirth, R. (2012) Conservation breeding and the most threatened birds in Asia. BirdingASIA 18: 50–57.


“It is more difficult to find a Shama than a Orangutan in Borneo”

Check out the Radio Interview with our colleague Serene Chng from TRAFFIC talking in detail about the Asian Songbird Crisis on BFM 89.9.

Serene Chng is a wildlife trade researcher and a program officer with TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. Her work involves recording wildlife traded in many of the region’s most notorious markets, and she has brought many emerging wildlife trafficking issues to light through her research and collaborations with others. A bird lover herself, Serene is a co-coordinator with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Asian Songbird Specialist Trade Group.

Even more on Serene and her work can be heard in the National Geographic podcast series, Expedition: Earth in the episode Expedition: Caged

Sumatra Leafbird Chloropsis media in the Javan Birdmarket by Simon Bruslund

The expanse of domestic bird markets in Indonesia – the case of Makassar in Sulawesi

Bird trade study in Sulawesi shows extent of Indonesia’s domestic bird markets and highlights the need for strengthened law enforcement 

Text by Boyd Leupen, Monitor Conservation Research Society

A recent study published by members of the Monitor Songbird Lab has found large numbers of illegally traded birds during market surveys on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Monitor Songbird Lab is a collaborative effort between conservation researchers, including members of Monitor Conservation Research Society and the EAZA Silent Forest Group.

The present study, which consisted of a survey of Makassar’s main bird markets in June 2019, represents yet another step in the mapping out of Indonesia’s extensive and complex bird trade. Although large-scale surveys have been conducted in Indonesia in the past, most importantly on Java, many the country’s lesser-frequented islands remain understudied. The data presented in the study is intended to support enforcement efforts in Indonesia, to aid in strengthening policies in place to prevent declines in wild bird populations and to catalyze further conservation actions.

Grosbeak Starling (Scissirostrum dubium) a Sulawesi island endemic of concern. The present study recorded 622 individuals for sale in a single day. Image: Simon Bruslund/Silent Forest

In a single day a total of 6,352 birds belonging to 63 different species were recorded in the bird markets of Makassar, nearly all of which were native to Indonesia. More than half of these birds do not naturally occur on Sulawesi, exemplifying the country’s large intra-national bird trade. The introduction of non-native species, particularly on islands, can have devastating consequences for local bird populations when escaped cage birds spread disease or become invasive competitors.



Most numerous species in the market was the Orange-spotted Bulbul (Pycnonotus bimaculatus) from western Indonesia. Image: Simon Bruslund/Silent Forest

The recorded birds included a total of 15 protected species, accounting for 1,004 individuals, for which commercial trade is prohibited in Indonesia. Numerous other species observed had been harvested outside of national harvest and quota laws, making the sale of these birds illegal as well. The fact that these illegally-sourced birds were openly available in Makassar’s markets clearly highlights the need for strengthened enforcement in Indonesia. The authors of the study recommend regular inspections of the markets by local authorities and enforcement of existing laws as and when illegal trade is encountered.

Find the full study here: (

CBCC publishes annual report

The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre (CCBC) annual report for the year 2021 reflects the varying levels of restrictions in reponse  to the corona virus affecting all society in Indonesia. Not least with the large undertaking of vaccinating the population. The CCBC team thankfully stayed healthy during this period but have still been impacted by the global CoVID pandemic which affected building projects, funding and also our in-situ impact.

Conservation Breeding Manager Bertie Ferns write “It has been a difficult year to advance many plans but, nonetheless, we still have progress to celebrate and are immensely grateful to all our sponsors.”

Within the Annual Report is a brief summary of each species housed at CCBC, including a project review from 2021 and goals for 2022. Objectives that were made in December 2020 are presented, and their status assessed.

All recent reports from CBCC can be found on the project page

As with many other ongoing Silent Forest sponsored projects the current funding circle is coming to a compleation and in order to continue the support effort we call on our supporters.

Silent Forest runs on a zero budget and supporting the projects through Silent Forest ensures that 100% of your donation is forwarded to the project partners.  

Secure a certifivate for you or your institution today by donating towards the Silent Forest Projects

New to science and already threatened by trade

The much-anticipated formal description of two new songbird species which are endemic to South Borneo is now out. Here a species of white-eye and jungle-Flycatcher is described as new to science. Both species were first discovered during an expedition in the karst Meratus Mountain range in 2016 when searching for the enigmatic Black-browed Babbler which was only rediscovered nearby in 2020.

Particularly the new Meratus White-eye (Zosterops meratusensis sp. nov.) is visually distinctive with its overall more olive-greenish appearance whereas the new Meratus Jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis kadayangensis sp. nov.) might be less distinctive to the untrained eye but it has a unique song. Both species were also documented to be genetically distinctive species.

First author Mohammad Irham is from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and is also associated with National University of Singapore (NUS) which have extensive experience with DNA sequencing used in the description.

Images are kindly shared by James Eaton who led the original expedition discovering the species.

Most authors are closely associated with the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) and have good insights to the trade issues affecting many songbirds in Indonesia, and as a part of their description the authors recommend listing the “new” species as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List because of their small range and an increasingly high frequency of bird trapping in this area.

Meratus Jungle-flycatcher, image ©: James A. Eaton, Birdtour Asia
Meratus White-eye, image ©: James A. Eaton, Birdtour Asia

Here is the link to the publication

Mohammad Irham, Tri Haryoko, Subir B. Shakya, Simon L. Mitchell, Ryan C. Burner, Carlos Bocos, James A. Eaton, Frank E. Rheindt, Suparno Suparno, Frederick H. Sheldon & Dewi M. Prawiradilaga (2022) Description of two new bird species from the Meratus Mountains of southeast Borneo, Indonesia. Journal of Ornithology.

Breeding Facilities Project Complete!

As of October 2021, the Silent Forest co-funded project at Cikananga Conservation Breeding Center (CCBC) is complete! This project involved expanding the center blueprint to allow for the building of over 50 high quality aviaries. These new facilities will be dedicated to the current and future conservation breeding programmes at CCBC for Endangered and Critically Endangered Indonesian endemic bird species such as the Javan Green Magpie (pictured).

This project was of urgent importance as many of the old facilities of CCBC have become unfit for purpose due to wear in the tropical climate, significantly reducing the capacity and impact of CCBC. In the face of a global pandemic, the strong support of the Silent Forest Campaign and multiple other sponsors remained and with this new aviary block now up and running, CCBC can look to the future as we work together in the conservation of bird species on the brink of extinction. Please access the full report here CCBC-Final-Report-aviaries-construction-2021.pdf (

Critically Endangered Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) in the new Cikananga aviaries (c) H.H. Ferns CBCC-YCKT

Read more about the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Center on the project page 

Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark take new scientific employee onboard

To follow up on dire need for songbird field conservation research such as rapid population assessments and monitoring’s as well as assisting with the population management, studbook and records keeping within the Prigen centre. The Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark have recently taken onboard, as an enthusiastic Scientific Assistant Febry Riyad Hendiyanto who joins the team in Prigen from Bogor and have field experience in far flung corners of Indonesia.

To see more news and learn about the latest breeding results check out the newest quarterly report older reports can be downloaded from the Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark project page.

Febry Riyad Hendiyanto is the new Scientific Assistant in the Prigen team
The newest issue of the quarterly updates feature the thought-extinct-in-the-wild Maratua Shama on the cover

Global literature review on “bird singing contests” suggest conservation needs and opportunities

A new study by Ben Mirin and Holger Klinck from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology published this week  in the open access journal Global Ecology and Conservation looked at the scientific research published worldwide on the subject of bird singing competitions and songbird trade over the past 30 years.

In their review they found a sharp increase in research carried out after the first Songbird Trade Crisis Summit held in Jurong Birdpark in Singapore 2015.

Focus on Southeast Asia

Mirin et al. also found that researchers have laid a strong focus on the Indo-Malay region, which is also thought to have the highest number of species threatened by trade worldwide. In their paper they write

“The sheer extent of trade-driven declines among Southeast Asia’s birds has compelled researchers and conservationists to coin a new phrase for the phenomenon, the Asian Songbird Crisis. To understand whether similar crises could erupt elsewhere, we first must understand the patterns and progress of our research on the songbird trade and its various components”

Suggesting that other regions may also be at risk of increased conservation issues due to songbird trade and there are raising concerns about parts of South America as well as the demand for birds out of Africa. The authors also connect the issue with human movement and economics.

Categories of Research

The 219 reviewed publications were categorized into five categories, looking at “Overall drivers”, “Genetic and field research”, “Captive breeding and management of assurance colonies”, “Education and outreach” as well as “Trade enforcement and legislation”. The global highest proportion of research had a focus on the genetic, field and ecological research followed closely by overall drivers the lowest proportion was focussed on captive breeding as well as education and outreach.


The authors suggest that more scientific research is needed on the important aspect of the human component particularly education and outreach and for conservationists to understand cultural rooting of the bird singing contests and to engage the younger generations. It was also found that there is a need for more actual evidence on population trends in species that are targeted by the trade, calling for more multi-disciplinary studies.

The supplementary material published with the paper provides a great overview of relevant literature.



Benjamin H. Mirin, Holger Klinck (2021) Bird singing contests: Looking back on thirty years of research on a global conservation concern. Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 30, 2021, e01812,

ISSN 2351-9894,


Original abstract: Keeping wild birds is a deeply engrained and widely prevalent cultural practice, with a history going back thousands of years. One of the more recent trends to emerge from this practice is the singing contest, which pits male birds against each other to impress human judges with their songs, plumage, and movement. A champion bird can garner social prestige and, in some cases, considerable sums of prize money for its human owner. Today these contests drive demand in the global songbird trade, especially in Southeast Asia where more bird species are threatened by trade than in any other region of the world. This literature review aims to describe how we study the songbird trade and identify new research opportunities with a focus on singing contests. We aggregated 219 papers published between 1990 and 2020 and categorized them according to geographic origin, publication date, and academic focus. We found that singing contests currently take place in 19 countries across five of the world’s biogeographic regions, using at least 36 species of birds. Our analysis revealed that research on the songbird trade is most prevalent in the Indo-Malay, Neotropic, and Palearctic regions, tends to prioritize birds over humans, and corresponds with the prevalence of singing contests. Education and Outreach had the fewest publications of any discipline in our review, and we conclude this kind of research may provide a valuable basis for future conservation strategies targeting the songbird trade at a global scale.

Keywords: Singing contest; Wildlife trade; Songbird; Conservation; Education; Bird-keeping


Arfah Memorial Fund open for applications

Our colleagues from the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre are proud to announce that the Arfah Memorial Fund is now open for applications, until 25 September 2021.
The aim and purpose of the Arfah Nasution Memorial Fund is to provide opportunity for young Indonesian women working in conservation to apply for financial support for travel and general expenses which will enable them to gain experience by attending training opportunities and/or conferences in Indonesia or abroad.
The memorial Fund is dedicated to the memory of our beloved colleague and friend Arfah Nasution. Arfah dedicated her life to nature conservation from an early age and worked for the Cikananga Foundation as our biologist from 2014 to 2020. In the summer of 2020 she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, a battle that she lost in September 2020.

The Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group: A Brief Report On Its First Four Years: 2017-2020

The IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) published a brief report
outlining its work scope and achievements since its inception in 2017 and future plans for the tackling of the Asian Songbird Crisis. The report provides updates on the songbird conservation efforts led by the ASTSG’s members between 2017 and 2020, under the group’s five main themes.

Field-based surveys conducted informed the ASTSG’s priority conservation actions and identified further research areas. The findings also contributed to the changes in several species conservation statuses. Among them are Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Sumatran Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor), Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush (Garrulax rufifrons) and Javan Pied Starling (Gracupica jalla).

Genetic research helped to identify new genomically distinctive populations of songbirds affected by the trade, notably Javan Jungle Flycatcher (Cyornis banyumas), Simeulue Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa miotera), Sangkar White-eye (Zosterops melanurus), Javan Pied Starling (Gracupica jalla) and three sub-species of Black-winged Myna (Acridotheres melanopterus). A number of internationally renowned zoos and local breeding centres contributed to the establishment of ex-situ populations for songbirds threatened by the trade. Currently, several facilities in Southeast Asia are running conservation breeding programmes for the ASTSG’s priority species, including Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati), Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Maratua Shama (Kittacincla (malabarica) barbouri), Barusan Shama (Kittacincla (malabarica) melanurus), Javan Pied Starling (Gracupica jalla), Wangi-Wangi White-eye (Zosterops sp. nov.), Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina).

The ASTSG’s trade and legislation team conducted multiple market surveys, including online, and analysed seizure data. Although much of the work focused on the trade in Indonesia, trade in other countries and international trade were also researched, including China, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam and others. The findings supported legislative and law enforcement actions against those smuggling and selling songbirds without permits.

Demand reduction and consumer behaviour change studies were conducted in Indonesia, Singapore and Viet Nam, forming the basis of future behaviour change interventions. Demand reduction, education and community engagement initiatives were launched at different scales by organisations ranging from European zoos to local NGOs.

David Jeggo, Chair of the ASTSG and the report’s co-author, believes that “This long-awaited report will be useful for academics and conservationists researching and tackling the unsustainable songbird trade in Southeast Asia, as well as for other stakeholders involved in the trade.” The report also briefly outlines the direction and plans for the group in upcoming years.

Read the full report here

For more ASTSG news visit

Likely poaching of Grey-backed Myna in Indonesia’s Baluran National Park

Text by Loretta Shepherd, Monitor Conservation Research Society

New study highlights the emerging trend of trade in Grey-backed Myna sold online as ‘Baluran locals’- indicating ongoing and potential future poaching in Indonesia’s Baluran National Park (BNP).

Located in East Java, BNP is the most significant stronghold of the entire Black-winged Myna complex and is one of two remaining locations where the Grey-backed Myna is still known to occur in the wild. It is home to the largest known coherent population of this taxa, estimated at a minimum of 50 birds in 2017 and no more than a few dozen in 2020, though very recent yet unpublished research suggests that the population size may actually be larger, ranging between 140 and 220 individuals.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, the study’s authors recorded a minimum of 19 Grey-backed Mynas offered for sale on social media. Sixteen different sellers were identified, suggesting that most of the sales were conducted opportunistically.

Considering the dire conservation status of Baluran’s Grey-backed mynas, any trade in wild-caught individuals should be considered highly alarming and must be countered as swiftly as possible.

“It is critical that songbird poaching in Baluran National Park is addressed urgently,” said Simon Bruslund, the study’s lead author, drawing attention to online trade advertisements of Grey-backed Mynas purportedly sourced from BNP. “Indonesia must use the tools it already has to intervene against the ongoing illegal capture and trade in Grey-backed Mynas from BNP”.

As evidenced, the illegal commercial trapping fuelled by a deeply ingrained Javanese hobby continues to threaten Asian songbirds.

All images are screen grabs from trade adverts and are showing both adults and juveniles for sale

To further counter potential poaching activities, the authors encourage the establishment of a rapid reporting system through which observations or trapping, trading, and keeping of Grey-backed Mynas can be swiftly reported to the authorities, and the introduction of SMART patrols which has proven effective elsewhere.

This study is part of the Monitor Songbird Lab – a research cooperation involving the EAZA Silent Forest Group and the Monitor Conservation Research Society.

Read the full paper:

Silent Forest Circus

Mirabelle Arts, supported by the EAZA Silent Forest Group on scientific back-ground of the narrative, and with financial support from the Arts Council England and UNIT 15, have developed the , a circus theatre piece inspired by and aimed at raising awareness of the Asian Songbird Crisis.

Silent Forest Circus story-board

Each artist represents an endangered songbird species, with intricate costume design and engaging narration by our own Jonathan Beilby. The artists mimick their looks and behaviours while the narrator highlights the dangers they face.

The show, currently under development is available for viewing as a video-showing which welcomes feedback. Read more about the Silent Forest Circus and updates on the activities page.

Congratulations and good luck for this beautiful initiative from the EAZA Silent Forest Group!

New cooperation aims to increase research output

Text by Chris R. Shepherd, Executive Director, Monitor Conservation Research Society.

Monitor Conservation Research Society and the EAZA Silent Forest Group have joined forces to create the Monitor Songbird Lab; a joint effort to increase evidence-based research outputs on songbird trade and its effects on biodiversity.

Amongst its work is the development of the world’s first global open-source songbird trade database, to be hosted on the Monitor website, as well as the creation of a comprehensive data package on the global songbird trade, in close cooperation with the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance and the University of Southern Denmark. Other collaborations with universities and zoos have already resulted in the publication of several scientific publications.

Learn more about Monitor Conservation Research Society and their collaboration with the Silent Forest Group here.

Breeding season is approaching in Simeulue

Cikananga Newsletter edition 20

Text by Bertie Ferns, Conservation Breeding Manager, Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre

I hope this e-mail finds you well and in good spirits. We are pleased to bring you edition #20 of the CCBC newsletter providing you with news on our activities from the past couple of months. Despite the challenges of this year we are still able to progress with thanks to unwavering support, thank you.

I hope you enjoy reading our good news and it brightens your day.

Best wishes from the CCBC Team.

The extraordinary vanishing act of the Javan Pied Starling

27 March 2021 Press-release by IUCN-SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group

A new study published in Ardea – the scientific journal of the Netherlands Ornithologists’ Union – highlights the unprecedented decline of the critically endangered Javan Pied Starling Gracupica jalla.

Dr. Bas van Balen, the lead author of the study, explains that “Fifty to hundred years ago the Javan Pied Starling was one of the commonest birds in Javas farmlands. Now, no wild birds are known to survive in the wild. Just a few occasional escapes can be seen.”

An estimated more than 1.1 million birds are held in households in Java, all stemming from commercial enterprises across the island.  To our knowledge, there is no other known case where a bird species has become extinct in the wild but can be bought openly and legally in commercial outlets within its former range.

The two most important causes of extinction are trapping for the songbird trade and the use of pesticides in the agricultural fields which are believed to have greatly depleted the topsoil food resource of the species. The species is specialised for ‘prying’, a foraging technique which allows them to feed on earthworms and other soft-bodied invertebrates. 

The Javan Pied Starling is a recent (2016) taxonomic split from Asian Pied Starling Gracupica contra. The former has disappeared almost entirely unnoticed from its native range in Java and Bali, Indonesia; in a circumstance that Dr. Nigel Collar of BirdLife International and co-author of the study describes as unique in bird conservation. He explains in almost disbelief that for a species with a high tolerance of disturbed habitats, especially agricultural areas, and which used to be found in large roosts inside city limits, the current situation is truly extraordinary. Here is a bird that is extinct in the wild but which you can find quite easily in bird shops and people’s homes. There is no other case like this on earth.

Bas and Nigel point out that their study is another grave reminder of the impacts of the ‘Asian songbird crisis’, brought about by the large-scale trapping of wild birds throughout Indonesia, particularly Java and Sumatra, to meet the demand for domestic pet bird trade.

The IUCN Species Survival Commission Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) identifies 44 bird species as heavily impacted by songbird trade. Of these, 21 are already listed as globally threatened, of which 19 inhabit Indonesia. Nine critically endangered species include the Javan Pied Starling. David Jeggo, Chair of ASTSG explains that Most of these species were uplisted during the 2016 IUCN Red List update highlighting that the impacts of wild harvest are now glaringly visible as rare species continue to decline to the point that many are disappearing from their wild habitats.

Interestingly, the Javan Pied Starling is not popular in songbird contests that are widely thought to have caused the decline of many songbird species. The trade in this species is fuelled by its popularity as a pet caged bird – a long-established Indonesian hobby with profound cultural roots.

BirdLife and Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia) aim “to bring to an end illegal, unregulated and unsustainable trade in birds”. This means clamping down on trade that threatens the populations of wild-caught birds. Burung Indonesia is encouraging songbird keepers to shift the balance of songbirds’ provenance towards captive-bred stock that may help the status of birds like starlings and bulbuls, which breed readily in captivity.

However, for a species already gone from the wild, conservation is far more complex than stopping trade and protecting habitats. Fortunately, the new study provides clues. The authors reviewed all information (published and unpublished) they could find to provide an evidence base for any future endeavour to re-establish a population in the wild. They found that the species was once widespread in at least 168 localities in Java and 13 localities in Bali. Nine localities were also reported in eastern Sumatra.

In an emergency online meeting called to discuss the conservation of the Javan Pied Starling in early March this year, conservation biologists, all linked to the IUCN Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group, broadly agreed that a captive population needs to be assembled for conservation breeding and safe release into the wild.  That population needs to be as large as institutional and financial capacity in Java will allow, to increase the chances of capturing the genetic diversity in the commercially held stock. A number of institutions in Java may be able to help with the establishment of a conservation breeding programme.

Jochen Menner of Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark explains that “Acquiring genetically pure birds for captive breeding will be an issue because there are a number of mutant plumages and possibly even hybrid individuals in captivity. However, that shouldnt stop us from trying”.  Prigen has offered to coordinate the captive breeding effort and where work has already begun.

Internationally, established zoos and avicultural institutions have also expressed interest in pooling financial resources and avicultural expertise in support.

There is also room to raise awareness about the detrimental impacts of pesticide use on birds in agricultural environments.  Simon Bruslund, Head of Conservation, Marlow Birdpark points out that “pesticides are believed to have greatly depleted the topsoil food resource of the species. The species is specialised for prying, a foraging technique which allows them to feed on earthworms and other soft-bodied invertebrates.” 

The plight of the once common Javan Pied Starling reflects the need more broadly to encourage the sustainable management of grasslands and agricultural landscapes across Asia which are home to many species which are either threatened or are likely to become so.”  – says Mr. Vinayagan Dharmarajah, Regional Director of BirdLife International (Asia).

Research is urgently needed to identify sites where birds might be released in future and where they will be safe from trapping and the influence of pesticides on their food supply.  There is a real need to “create safe havens,” says Stuart Marsden, Professor of Conservation Biology at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK and vice-chair for field research in ASTSG.  Stu explains that searches are still needed in case there are a few places where a small wild population possibly survives. But we shouldnt raise our hopes too high. There have been no records of the species in the wild since the start of the century.

Mr. Adi Widyanto, Head of Conservation and Development, Burung Indonesia sees songbird trade and keeping as a challenge to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development but also an undisputed economic opportunity for those involved in the value chain. He later adds “Considering the scale of the issue, there is a need to develop conservation actions that are inclusive. This would mean engaging the relevant actors in the sector to work out the most optimum solution that captures diverse interests.”

Safe havens in Indonesia will only work if communities are fully engaged and supportive argues Dr. Anuj Jain of BirdLife International who also co-chairs the ASTSG’s community engagement group. BirdLife has successfully implemented an “Ibis rice” scheme engaging over 250 farmer families that protect ibises in Cambodia. Anuj is hopeful – Maybe one day, we will have “Javanese Starling rice – rice free from pesticides where communities are incentivized and where eco-tourists and Javan Pied Starlings roam free.


Direct link to the study: van Balen S. & Collar N.J. 2021. The vanishing act: a history and natural history of the Javan Pied Starling Gracupica jalla. Ardea doi:10.5253/arde.v109i1.a1


Birdlife Javan Pied Starling datasheet


About IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group

The IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) was established to prevent the imminent extinction of songbirds threatened by unsustainable trapping and the trade in wild-caught passerines.  In addition, it seeks to address the impact of the trade and to find solutions through which the growing threat to an ever increasing number of songbird species can be reversed and improve the conservation status of all species involved.

Although there are various institutions working on songbird conservation issues, having a coordinated effort under this Specialist Group will create a synergy by bringing subject matter experts from different fields together for the common purpose of Asian songbird conservation. Given that the threats facing songbirds are multi-faceted and require a range of different yet coordinated strategies, the Specialist Group will facilitate this coordination. ​


Wangi-Wangi Island Trip Report

The Wangi-Wangi White-eye was discovered in 2003 and although widely recognized as a separate species it is still in the process of being scientifically described. For several years there have been concerns about the bird’s conservation status and the Silent Forest pre-selected project partner Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark (PCBA) have been precautionary breeding the pale billed white-eye species in their facilities since 2019. The PCBA curator Jochen Menner spend his holidays on the Island of Wangi-Wangi to gain a better picture of the species status for himself. He has kindly shared his disconcerting trip report with us which suggest the species is perhaps not as widely distributed in secondary habitat as we had hoped and that more research is urgently needed on the ecology of this “new” species.

Wangi-Wangi Island Trip Report – December 2020

Bangkaru Island of Natural Treasures

Text by Thomas Amey, Director of Social and Environmental Programmes, EcosystemImpact Foundation

Home to some of the world’s rarest bird and turtle species, Bangkaru Island remains…

Bangkaru Island by Alex Westover

wild and remote, off the Northwest coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. An Island of natural treasures!

EcosystemImpact and wildlife agency BKSDA have a team of rangers that patrol this Island Paradise and are on site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To keep these dedicated rangers in the field, protecting species like the iconic Nias Hill Myna, White-rumped Shama, Silvery Pigeon and Leatherback Turtle, we need to raise $45,000 annually to enable the rangers to do their job.

Nias Hill Myna (Gracula robusta) on Bangkaru by Ross Gallardy

Without the rangers, many bird species that call Bangkaru home could be pushed to extinction by poachers. Bangkaru is one of only four places in the world that maintains a population of Nias Hill Myna. Research has shown that the Nias Hill Myna population on Bangkaru is possibly the only remaining viable population in the world. These birds have been pushed to the edge of extinction due to trafficking for the illegal pet trade and are now Critically Endangered.

The ranger’s carryout anti-poaching patrols whilst collecting data on Bangkaru’s critically endangered species. The data is then analysed by EcosystemImpact’s team and used to inform future conservation action. Due to the rarity of these bird species, and the very real threat of extinction, EcosystemImpact is part of regional and international groups working to save these iconic bird species.

See video by Paul Hilton

Bangkaru is also a nesting site of international importance for Green and Leatherback Sea Turtles. As well as patrolling Bangkaru’s forest and beaches, the rangers remove piles of plastic from the beaches that become obstacles for turtles and their hatchlings on their way to the ocean.

Raising funds during the pandemic has been more challenging than usual. But the threat of poaching for the pet trade does not go away. Please help us if you can. Any contribution you can make towards keeping the rangers on Bangkaru every day of the year would be hugely appreciated.

Together We Heal Our Planet.

The Treasure Island Project is an ongoing annual priority committment of the Silent Forest Group including intensive technical support as well funding. We work at a zero administration budget and 100% of donations directed towards Silent Forest or EcosystemsImpact which are earmarked for “Treasure Island” goes to support EcosystemImpact’s Bangkaru Rangers.

A need for international protection of the Sumatran Laughingthrush

A the new publication by Sarah Heinrich et al. “A case for better international protection of the Sumatran Laughingthrush (Garrulax bicolor)” is fresh off the press. This completed as a cooperation between researchers from Monitor Conservation Research Society, Chester zoo, Marlow Bird Park and the University of Adelaide. The paper argues for a need of strengthened international protection and in particular highlights the potential illegal and unsustainable trade in the European Union in this Endangered species. Read the full paper here

Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre wins ASAP support grant

Great news from Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre (CCBC). With the support of ASAP the coming breeding season for the Javan Green Magpie and Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush can come. CCBC applied to ASAP’s Rapid Action Fund to continue the breeding programmes of the three birds. ASAP has teamed up with the Oriental Bird Club to provide the funds needed by CCBC.

ASAP is offering opportunities to apply for grants to the ASAP partners organisations for urgent and emergency conservation of ASAP species which are critically endangered Asian species.

Congratulations to the Cikananga team!

Best Practice Guidelines for ex-situ management of the Straw-headed Bulbul published

Text by Simon Bruslund

A straw-headed bulbul (Tan Siah Hin David)

After month of writing up the collected experience by EEP coordinator Manoj Kumar the manuscript has been under review by the EAZA Songbird TAG for additional months. Now it has finally been published and it is worth taking a closer look. The Straw-headed Bulbul is a challenging species to breed in captivity and the effort and attention Manoj and his colleagues is putting into a focussed management will be instrumental for establishing an ex-situ assurance population of this species in the long-term.

The best practice guideline for the Straw-headed Bulbul can be downloaded from the EAZA website HERE