European zoos and NGOs launch two-year campaign to save songbirds from extinction

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, together with TRAFFIC, BirdLife International and the IUCN Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group, today launched a joint campaign in a collaborative effort to save iconic Asian songbird species from extinction.

The Silent Forest campaign will raise awareness of the devastating effects of the trade in songbirds across Southeast Asia, and will also raise funds for field conservation projects that are working to reverse the decline in numbers of some of the world’s most beautiful birds. Teetering on the brink of extinction, birds such as the Bali Myna and Javan Green Magpie are highly sought after in markets across the region. Owning a songbird has long been an integral part of Southeast Asian culture, but as the region develops, songbirds are fetching increasingly high prices in the markets, encouraging trappers to clear birds from huge areas of forest.

“The Asian songbird crisis has reached a tipping point: without immediate action, it is almost certain their voices will be silenced forever in the forest,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Southeast Asia Regional Director of TRAFFIC, the world’s leading NGO on wildlife trafficking. “We aim to raise the profile of this crisis both in Europe and in the range States and have a plan in place, in the form of a Conservation Strategy for these birds which this campaign feeds directly into”.

“We need to establish a sustainable model that respects both local culture and laws without destroying the incredible richness of Southeast Asia’s biodiversity; that’s a formidable challenge, but this is a very strong coalition of partners, and there are some amazing projects that the campaign will support.”

Thomas Ouhel of Liberec Zoo, and Chair of the Campaign, pointed to the difference that funds raised by European zoos could make: “If we can persuade traders to work with conservationists and breeders rather than pillaging the forests, there’s a real chance to save these birds by changing attitudes towards the ownership of songbirds. Funding for the breeding and conservation projects, linked to educational work in the local communities can halt and eventually reverse the decline in songbirds species, bringing back the music of the forest for the benefit of future generations.”

Silent Forest will run for two years, and is aimed at raising €400,000 from European zoos and their visitors to help save six Critically Endangered flagship species identified by the coalition and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Leading biologists from the EAZA and beyond will also work on scientific measures to increase protection for these species. To learn more, visit