New paper on Black-throated Laughingthrush out: global commercialisation, under-reported trade, and the need for increased international regulation of a non-CITES listed songbird

The Black-throated Laughingthrush Pterorhinus chinensis is one of many songbird species impacted by trade. Found in Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, it is sought-after by songbird hobbyists locally and abroad.

The number of songbirds negatively affected by unsustainable trade, especially in Asia, continues to grow. Only a few species are protected where they occur naturally, and fewer still are internationally protected through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning there is no mechanism to regulate or formally document international trade in that species. This undermines possibilities to protect these songbirds and regulate international trade.

To determine levels of national and international trade, researchers examined Black-throated Laughingthrush trade records extracted from published and unpublished market studies undertaken in parts of Asia and the United States of America (USA). The aim of the study was to establish if listing the Black-throated Laughingthrush in CITES is warranted and further, to identify actions needed to mitigate commercial trade as a threat.

Trade data from the range countries of Thailand and Vietnam as well as from Indonesia and USA, both non-range countries, revealed 10,841 records of Black-throated Laughingthrushes in trade, across 762 visits to 51 markets between 1966 and 2019. The majority (63%) were recorded in locations outside the species’ range. Interesting too was that the highest prices were recorded in the USA and the lowest in Thailand, and that price dynamics in Indonesia indicated high demand and increasing scarcity. The scarcity of the laughingthrushes could be due to rarity in the wild or fewer birds available in the market due to tighter import restrictions – or a combination of both.

At least 4,071 individuals were observed for sale in locations where they are currently protected. The study also found 76 individuals imported into the USA in 2017–2018. While these were recorded as captive bred and having been imported from Senegal for commercial purposes, it is still not clear if this odd case is a transshipment, exports from a captive breeder, or a clerical mistake.

In the European Union (EU), commercial import of the Black-throated Laughingthrush has been restricted since 2005, though imports as ‘personal pets’ are permitted if they come from approved establishments. Despite the restrictions however, it appears as if illegal imports from the wild still occur.

Given the scale of international trade, evidence of illegal imports and the continual decline in wild populations, we recommend that the Black-throated Laughingthrush be included in Appendix II of CITES, to facilitate better documentation and regulation of trade. An Appendix II listing would enable scrutiny of trade dynamics by range countries and to flag any concern on the sustainability of trade as well as limit opportunities for illegal trade through the permitting system.

The authors urge that range countries join forces to propose the CITES listing to protect their native Black-throated Laughingthrush in Appendix at the next Conference of the Parties (CoP20) and request importing countries to support this proposal.

The authors also call on importing countries to use a CITES II listing as a measure to prevent illegal, unsustainable or unregulated imports of Black-throated Laughingthrushes to their territories.

Read the full paper here:

Global commercialisation, under-reported trade, and the need for increased international regulation of a non-CITES listed songbird by Chris R. Shepherd, Boyd T.C. Leupen, S. Sunny Nelson, Lalita Gomez, John A. Allcock, Simon Bruslund, Caroline Dingle and Vincent Nijman was published in the Journal of Asian Ornithology, Vol. 39 (2023).

Read about other laughingthrushes and CITES here: Sumatran Laughingthrush and Chinese Hwamei 

Working towards a brighter future for the Crested Jayshrike

Text by Chris R. Shepherd and Boyd T. C. Leupen from the Monitor Conservation Research Society. Both are members of the IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group and collaborate with the Silent Forest Group on trade research through the shared Monitor Songbird Lab

Through the generous funding from the Silent Forest Campaign, Monitor Conservation Research Society (Monitor) has been able to undertake an investigation into the largely unknown trade in the Crested Jayshrike Platylophus galericulatus in Indonesia. The Crested Jayshrike is native to Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. It is threatened by loss of habitat due to logging and conversion of forests to plantations and agricultural land, and by intense trapping to supply the cage bird trade.

Malayan Crested Jayshrike (Platylophus galericulatus ardesiacus). Image by Roger Boey

Indonesia is the epicentre of Southeast Asia’s songbird trade. Much of the country’s songbird trade is illegal and unsustainable exploitation of wild populations is driving an increasingly long list of species towards extinction. Songbird competitions are one of the main drivers behind this immense trade. Although Crested Jayshrikes are appreciated for their striking appearance and song, they are not primarily used to compete in singing contests. Instead, they fulfil an important backstage role; they ‘train’ the competing songsters. They are kept in cages near competition birds who then incorporate elements of the Crested Jayshrikes’s song into their repertoire, giving them an edge over other birds in the competition.

Javan Crested Jayshrikes (Platylophus galericulatus galericulatus) are heavily trapped. They have darker plumage and paler eyes than the malayan population. Image by Jochen Menner, PCBA

While currently assessed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List in Threatened Species, it is thought that the Crested Jayshrike is in serious decline in many parts of its range. It is our hope that the information resulting from this study will ring alarm bells and call attention to the plight of this species and catalyse immediate actions to prevent further population declines.

The findings of this study will be published in the near future, complete with recommendations to ensure a brighter future for this beautiful and unique species. Watch this space!

In the Indonesian Songbird markets the Javan Crested Jayshrike is a sought after “masterbird”. Image by Simon Bruslund, Silent Forest

News from Cikananga…

The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Center (CCBC) have just released their annual report with reviews of activities from January – December 2022. As with most of the world, Indonesia in 2022 entered a post-pandemic period with restrictions and regulations eased and society having evolved. Whilst this was good news for CCBC as we once again gathered momentum and as a team had renewed energy, the competitive nature and lack of opportunity to gain funding was unfortunately the primary limitation to progress. Whilst major projects that requires more funding may not have progressed at the desired speed, at least the current ex-situ conservation breeding programmes did and are experiencing an exceptionally successful period. Alongside the main in situ programme for the Javan Green Magpie which has gained some great results and exciting prospect for 2023.

A pair of the Critically Endangered Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) at CCBC, image by Florian Richter

Read more in the CCBC 2022 Annual Report which can be found along with 14 other updates and progress reports on the CBCC project page of the Silent Forest website. Providing much interesting insights and knowledge about this project and the state of songbirds in Indonesia

Over-exploitation of Songbirds in Vietnam

The exploitation of birds for commercial trade is one of the greatest threats to an ever-increasing number of species around the world, particularly in Asia. Much of this trade is illegal, unregulated, and/or unsustainable and is a major cause of Southeast Asia’s bird declines and extinctions.

Experts warn that we are still witnessing the ongoing ‘Asian Songbird Crisis’.

Monitor Conservation Research Society took a closer look at online bird trade in Vietnam in 2020, and in less than a month, recorded 434 posts, accounting for 834 individuals of at least 50 species, almost all of which (92%) were native to the country. Significantly, the study encountered 10 species that had not been recorded in previously published studies about the Vietnamese bird trade.

The Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis) is among the most abundent species encountered in the study. Image Nicole Bruslund

“The scale of the observed trade appears to confirm a partial shift towards online platforms in Vietnam’s bird trade, or at least an increase in the use of online platforms to trade wild birds,” said study lead author, Boyd Leupen, Monitor’s Programme Officer for Birds. Similar trends have been observed in other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand.

In light of these findings, Monitor calls on the Government of Vietnam to improve regulations and increase enforcement action against illegal online trading practices to protect the country’s native bird species and offers its support towards mutual conservation goals.

“Online trade clearly entails additional enforcement challenges. Enforcement agencies have little choice but to find more effective ways to deal with this form of trade to ensure that it is both legal and sustainable,” says Leupen, adding that continued monitoring, effective cooperation between enforcement agencies and online platforms, as well as exploring demand reduction techniques to curb illegal trade are urgently needed.

A Brief Overview of the Online Bird Trade in Vietnam was published in the Asian Journal of Conservation Biology.

Hasta Luego Panamá

Today is the final day of the CITES CoP19 and it has been intense two weeks of learning, understanding, negotiating and adapting. It is with a feeling that the understanding of the need for conservation of wildlife is growing with the nations of the world as the conference is wrapping up and I write this blog.

The two Songbird proposals supported by the EAZA Silent Forest Group were today ratified and are now officially adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which is an international agreement, signed by 184 parties, designed to ensure that international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

It is common that there are dividing opinions about the proposals submitted but at this CoP although there was plenty of heated negotiation and intergovernmental discussion there was also an unprecedented number of proposals which was agreed upon in consensus without voting needed.

This was also the case for the two songbird proposals and the document 74 on improved protection of songbirds under CITES which received an amazing amount of support from the Parties as well as other observer organizations.

In the case of the White-rumped Shama nearly all range-states actively spoke out in support of the proposal, and none opposed this proposal. Particularly important was Indonesia who formulated their commitment for the conservation of this species which have the highest diversity of subspecies, in this country, with many of which are under serious pressure due to the trade.


The CoP19 has also been a great opportunity to forge an even closer relationship to our many partners who co-sponsored our side event and support our research activities in so many ways. Meeting old friends and making new ones is also an integral valuable part of conferences. We look forward to continue the work and together identify new priorities.

A deepfelt thank you to Panama, and the Parties dedicated to conservation and sustainability in the international trade wildlife. Hasta luego Panamá, hasta luego CITES!

Advocacy for songbirds at the CITES CoP19

Yesterday, with the EAZA Silent Forest Group and partners*, we hosted CITES delegates at an event on songbird conservation, moderated by Dalia Conde of Species360 and our own Danny de Man. Welcoming the audience of official delegations, NGOs and researchers, EAZA Chair Endre Papp underlined the importance of protecting songbirds from unsustainable and illegal trade.
Before CITES CoP19 ends tomorrow, it is hoped to approve stronger regulation for two songbirds (white-rumped shama and straw-headed bulbul) and renew its commitment to protecting more species. Just over 1% of songbirds are CITES listed, and actions promised at previous CoP in 2018 failed to gain momentum.
Our side event was an initiative to inject fresh energy into the topic. What is needed is a full picture of the scale of the trade, so that the conservation community – and governments that decide on CITES listings – can undertake the right protection efforts.
The session highlighted the need for more research and more data collection, which will allow for stronger evidence-based decisions in the future, especially in the CITES context.
© Tomasz Rusek, EAZA

Signs of support from CITES and Nations towards Songbird Conservation

Roger Safford giving the joint intervention and in the background Sunny Nelson from Lincoln Park Zoo and the member of the Monitor Songbird Lab

Today at the CITES CoP19 the important doc. 74 was treated this document is so important for Songbirds because it aims to renew the commitment which was made at the previous CITES Conference of the Parties towards supporting research, consulting with experts and convene a workshop for better protection of Songbirds in CITES. As this is completely in alignment with the aims of the EAZA Silent Forest Group and our partners, but unfortunately no activities could be initiated by the CITES secretariat in the interim we strongly support this proposal.

We have prepared for this discussion and a joint intervention on behalf of the partnership was given by Roger Safford from BirdLife International.

The Intervention reads:

“This intervention is on behalf of AZA, BirdLife International, EAZA, IUCN, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance,

Species360, Taronga Conservation Society, TRAFFIC, WCS, WWF, WAZA, ZAA Australasia, and ZSL.

The issue of international songbird trade remains urgent and unresolved with little tangible progress made in taking forward the decisions made at CoP 18. 

Songbirds represent more than half of the world’s bird species. They remain gravely underrepresented in CITES, despite their prevalence in international trade, both legal and illegal. This trade is expected to continue at increasing levels, and it is critical to address the knowledge gaps which continue to hamper a true understanding on the scale of this trade.

We therefore fully support CoP19 Doc.74, to renew the commitments from Cop 18 on Songbird Trade and Conservation Management. As a consortium of global organisations who continue to work on this matter, we offer our support in its implementation, to ensure that it is prioritised and momentum is sustained into the next CoP cycle.”

Going forward the EAZA Silent Forest Group pursue some of the following immediate aims in relation to CITES policies:

  • Presenting songbird trade research as well as new information resources, including two major reviews mentioned in CoP19 Doc. 74 that can be used for CITES decision making process.
  • Advocating for stronger use of CITES as a tool to protect threatened species of Passeriformes from unsustainable and illegal trade and enable data collection and access for stronger evidence-based decisions in the future (links to CoP19 Doc74 – Songbird trade and conservation management)
  • Support implementation of CITES Decisions 18.256-259, or the Decisions expected to replace or extend these at COP 19
  • Supporting the implementation of the two CoP19 CITES listing proposals for songbirds (White-rumped Shama and Straw-headed Bulbul)
  • Develop holistic conservation approaches for the challenges songbird species already protected by CITES face
  • Develop species assessments in the view of how CITES listings can support species conservation through data accumulation, regulations, sustainable use initiatives, and enhanced legislation enforcement

Decisive for Songbirds – the Second Week of the CITES CoP19

During the weekend the deliberations and negotiations of the CITES CoP19 were paused, and delegates had the opportunity to rest, catch-up on their policies or even get out and experience some of Panamanian culture, nature and wildlife.

Howler monkey watching the Delegates pass through the Metropolitan Nature Reserve of Panama City

The nature in Panama is highly diverse, including many Songbirds. It is a pleasure to see that even within the capital Panama City there are many green spaces where a wide range of species can be seen and experienced. As such many delegates crossed paths in the urban and near-urban protected areas braving the humid heat in search of Sloths, Primates, Birds and many other species.

By Monday morning it is back to “business” with long days of though negotiations with all effort on catching up on the agenda where countries vote on the submitted proposals and documents. This week is very decisive for songbirds with the two proposals for White-rumped Shama and Straw-headed Bulbul respectively, due to be presented and discussed as well as the very important document 74. This document is a repetition of an intention to support songbird trade research and listings from the previous CoP18. If this is again adopted, which we strongly support, we also hope that more effort and support will be available for this topic from the global community than in the previous period allowing real progress in the conservation policies to protect songbirds.

Songbirds consist of more than half of all existing bird species and are very present in the international trade with a clear increasing trend and new consumer markets becoming apparent particularly in Asia and South America. With well more than a thousand species of songbirds recorded in the international trade they seem to rival the international trade recorded in all other bird orders put together. Yet, in songbirds only 1,4% of the species are protected in the CITES appendices versus 35% of other bird species. It is now time to make proper assessments of the sustainability of international songbird trade and in the future follow-up with more CITES proposals for this group of birds.

Graphic is a preliminary output from the project ‘A Quantitative Global Review of Trade in Wild Birds’ being led by BirdLife International working with TRAFFIC, IUCN, UNEP-WCMC, and the University of Cambridge (UK), alongside the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance. It forms part of the body of evidence being presented to the CITES Conference of Parties in a document called Representation of songbirds (Passeriformes) in the CITES Appendices and their prevalence in trade.

Together with partners such as BirdLife International, Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, Monitor Conservation Research Society, TRAFFIC, WCS and with the backing of other regional zoo associations the EAZA through its Silent Forest Group wish to deepen its efforts researching the songbird trade globally and advocating for only sustainable and ethical use.

Side Event in Support of Shamas and Bulbuls

Under the title Keeping the Music Alive the governments of Malaysia and Singapore held a wonderful side event aimed at explaining the rationale behind the two proposals, 8 and 9 on the White-rumped Shama and Straw-headed Bulbul respectively. The meeting held at the CITES CoP19 last night (17 November 2022) was well attended and enthusiastically promoted conservation efforts for songbirds. The meeting was moderated by Dr. Melvin Terry Gumal from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Malaysia and graced with excellent presentations from Dr. Jessica Lee from Mandai Nature/ASTSG, Dr. Adrian Loo from National Parks Board of Singapore, Undersecretary Dr. Farrah Shameen from the Malaysian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and Martha Williams from US Fish and Wildlife Service.

It is apparent that the Critically Endangered Straw-headed Bulbul is just one step away from extinction it’s appendix I listing will allow more control, enable establishment of only sustainable captive breeding and trade to be legal and for illegal activities to be punished harder. It is also apparent that the White-rumped Shame is currently on the same path which have led the Straw-headed Bulbul to the edge of extinction a CITES appendix II listing in this species is only one conservation tool needed to keep this species away from a Red Listing and avoid further local extinctions. In conclusion; the Time for Action is Now recomending all Parties to vote yes on these two proposals.

Engaged discussions on songbird conservation with an exclusive audience and beautiful merchandize


The two proposals have not yet been treated in the agenda of the Motions of the Committee 1 meetings of the ongoing CITES CoP19. As soon as a decision has been made, we will post an update in the Silent Forest News/Blog.

Monitor Songbird Lab at the CITES CoP19

Simon and Sunny at the CoP

Another important conservation partner of the EAZA Silent Forest Group indirectly present at the CoP19 is the Monitor Conservation Research Society. Monitor collaborates closely with Silent Forest doing shared research projects and publications on the global songbird trade.

At the CoP19 Sunny Nelson from Lincoln Park Zoo and Simon Bruslund from Marlow Birdpark are presenting and representing the Monitor Flag in the absence of the rest of the team which together form the “Monitor Songbird Lab”.

The Monitor Songbird Lab investigates and researches the global trade in Songbirds and are currently expanding its focus beyond the Southeast Asian region. With projects coming up in West Africa as well as both North- and South America.

One of the larger projects of the team is the Songbirds in Trade Database which we hope to be launching very soon, so stay tuned for more news on this.

The Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola) is possibly the most trafficked songbird in the neotropics but more research is urgently needed. Interestingly this species can be seen in larger flocks all around the Panama Convention Center the venue of the 2022 CITES Conference of the Parties. In Panama this species is not native but likely established here due to the pet trade.

BirdLife International supporting Songbirds at the CITES CoP19

As a crucial partner in the conservation and advocacy work in support of Songbirds BirdLife International is also represented here at the CITES CoP19 in Panama. They are also supporting the two current songbird proposals and have led on an important letter to the CITES Parties calling for their support to these proposals signed by multiple CITES Observer NGO’s including EAZA.

Furthermore, as a part outcome of the ongoing “Global Assessment on Bird Trade” by BirdLife and Cambridge Conservation Initiative a consortium of consortium composed by BirdLife International, TRAFFIC, IUCN, UNEP-WCMC, University of Cambridge (UK) and the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance have prepared an Information Document (InfDoc) using this data. The InfDoc has been submitted to the CITES Secretariat pending publication.

This document with the title “Representation of Songbirds (Passeriformes) in the CITES Appendices and their Prevalence in Trade” is an outstanding documentation of the underrepresentation of songbird species protected in CITES but in absolute number as well as in relation to threats and trade interest in the species.

Leiothrix laurinae Sumatran Mesia Simon Bruslund

Supporting CITES Proposals for Songbirds

There are only two songbird related proposals to be presented at the CITES CoP19 for decisions. This, include the Straw-headed Bulbul up-listing from Appendix II to Appendix I and a new first-time listing of the White-rumped Shama in Appendix II.

Pygnonotus zeylanicus Straw-headed Bulbul at CCBC by Florian Richter

The proposals are based on sound data and have been submitted by the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore and are based on genuine concerned about the threat posed by the trade including international trade to fill the demand in areas where these two once common species have been massively depleted.

Kittacincla malabarica White-rumped Shama by Simon Bruslund

In aid of the two proposals, which are scheduled to be voted on in a few days there is a number of support letters directed at the CITES secretariat and the Parties who will decide if the proposals are approved or not on Friday 17 November 2022.

Led by ASTSG this letter is directed towards all the 186 Countries participating in CITES. 

Led by BirdLife International is endorsed by 16 organizations including ASTSG, Monitor Conservation Research Society, Mandai Nature, EAZA, EAZA Silent Forest Group and other partners.

First trial releases of Javan Pied Starling in Prigen

After 5 years of conservation breeding and preparations the Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark (PCBA) are finally engaging in a first trial release of 40 Javan Pied Starlings (Gracupica jalla). The release site is directly onto the grounds of Taman Safari Indonesia II Jatim. This is a large Safari Park which provide not only the right type of landscape but also a high degree of monitoring opportunities and a high level of safety for the desired birds.

It is suspected that this semi-wild population on the grounds will be the only free flying population known. This is an important opportunity to learn about how these birds which have been maintained in captivity for many generations will behave in the wild.

All 40 individuals provided free-roaming access to the wild hatched at PCBA and were raised by their parents in the breeding center. Before the transfer to the soft release aviary, which will serve the birds with a safe area and a guaranteed food source, all selected starlings underwent a final health check, and received additional colour identification rings.

Banding the young Javan Pied Starling (c) PCBA

Initially the young birds spend several weeks getting visually used to their new environment and the new neighbours. The habituation aviary is located near the savanna exhibits and the new neighbours include large herbivorous herds from Africa, such as Giraffes, Eland and Ostriches although not geographically fitting they serve the same ecological function as native herbivores such as the Banteng and the Javan Rusa Deer. The Javan Pied Starling will benefit from the insects that will swarm and breed around these animals which in turn benefits from the starling’s appetite for irritating invertebrates and alertness towards predators. It is hoped that a natural symbiosis can be brought back in existence.

Starling’s getting used to the new view (c) PCBA
Exhibit with African animals, here Eland Antilopes (c) PCBA

PCBA Staff and colleagues will be busy monitoring the movements and behaviour of the released flock as well as engaging with the local communities in the wider area to ensure the wellbeing of the population.

The birds come and go from the soft-release aviary (c) PCBA


The Javan Pied Starling (Gracupica jalla) is Critically Endangered widely believed to be extinct in the wild read these interesting papers to learn more about their ecology and plight.

2021 Nijman et al. Large-Scale Trade in a Songbird That Is Extinct in the Wild

2021 van Balen and Collar. The Vanishing Act: A History and Natural History of the Javan Pied Starling Gracupica jalla

2020 Baveja et al. Using historical genome-wide DNA to unravel the confused taxonomy in a songbird lineage that is extinct in the wild

Cuban Grassquit

The Government of Cuba have recently submitted notice that it will list two species of native songbirds to CITES Appendix III. Appendix III listings can be made by any signatory country (Party) unilaterally and primarily serves the purpose of collecting data and documenting the trade.

Cuban Grassquit (Phonipara canora) by Simon Bruslund

The two species belongs to the tanager family. One the Cuban Grassquit (Phonipara canora [syn. Tiaris canorus]) is well known in the international trade since many decades whereas the other the Cuban Bullfinch (Pyrrhulagra nigra [syn. Melopyrrha nigra]) has only recently re-appeared in the international trade including in Europe long after the wild bird import ban of the European Union was in place.

The variation and discrepancies in the scientific names is due to the fact that different taxonomies are used but this will be the topic of another post.

Silent Forest goes into Politics

Conservation politics. Many are aware of the approaching environmental conferences, particularly the UN Climate CoP27 and perhaps at least heard of the CBD UN Biodiversity CoP15 to be held in December, but only few will know the CITES CoP19; a crucial meeting for wildlife conservation that will take place from 14 to 25 November 2022 in Panama City, Panama.

Very fitting to the EAZA21+ Conservation Campaign the Silent Forest Group is also engaginging with the big nature conservation frameworks. CITES is surely among the most relevant.

The Silent Forest Group will be joining the CoP19 in 2022 as part of the EAZA delegation in the role as an Observer NGO. We strongly support the better use of CITES for increased protection of songbirds and during the event we will be actively advocating for this. We will also supporting the two listing proposals for songbirds:

  • Proposal 8, submitted by the governments of Malaysia and Singapore to list the White-rumped Shama (Kittacincla malabarica) in Appendix II.
  • Proposal 9, submitted by the governments of Singapore, Malaysia and USA to up-list the Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) from Appendix II to Appendix I.
The Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is proposed for up-listing to Appendix I to ensure better protection under CITES for this CR species

Read more about our activities at the CITES CoP19 and follow updates here.

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