The songbirds, who were supposed to be flying in the forest skies and chirping happily, were trapped in tiny and ridiculous cages, being transported to markets for people who want them singing inside their homes.
Indonesian police and quarantine officials obstructed three shipments of wild birds captured in Sumatra and transported to Java, Indonesia; all in course of 10 days,.
The police confisticated over 6,000 birds about a month ago, which included songbirds, sunbirds, tailorbirds, prinias, leafbirds, bulbuls, and nuthatches being transported in a truck. !,536 caged birds were seized only six days after that from the back of a bus. Four more days later, 2,140 more birds were rescued from a private car. Altogether, there were more than 9,600 rescued birds.
“I think this is the biggest bird seizure that has ever happened in a period of 10 days,” MarisonGuciano, executive director of FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia’s Birds, said. “This shows great pressure for Sumatran birds to supply markets in Java.”
There used to be plenty of wild birds in Java. Guciano, who grew up in the place, recalls how he used to hear their sweet songs all the time during his childhood.
Sadly, songbirds and wild birds are very rare in Java. That’s why traffickers have to go to Sumatra to catch them. The birds captured from there are transported to Java and, according to Guciano, it is a tradition among people to keep those birds as pets.
“Millions of people keep birds as pets so they can hear them sing,” Guciano said. “It is a big market.”
However, a lot of pressure in being put on the wild population and many wild birds are very close to extinction because of the pet trade. 19 species of Indonesian songbirds are already marked as endangered or vulnerable.
“The taking of songbirds from the wild in Indonesia is out of control,” Guciano said. “Thousands of birds are smuggled in small boxes, and travel, at times, hundreds of kilometers to reach the bird markets.”
Markets themselves are very bad for these birds.
“These markets are … a place where unspeakable cruelty occurs,” Guciano said. “Birds and other animals are chained and locked in small and dirty cages, with little access to food and water.”
The Indonesian law sadly does not protect many of these birds. Nevertheless, capturing and selling them does require special permission. But the traffickers don’t operate with permits, which means they are doing it illegally. In case they are caught taking away any bird protected by the country’s law, like greater green leafbirds, they can cause an even bigger problem for themselves.
These traffickers don’t even bother treating their birds well.
“When they are crammed into small boxes, they are seldom supplied with food and water and they are stressed,” Guciano said. “Many birds don’t want to eat because they find it overwhelming being crammed into small spaces. Many do not survive.”
However, according to Guciano, the birds’ survival is not what concerns the traffickers.
“Even though many birds die, traders still profit,” Guciano said. “They buy a bird from a hunter for half a dollar, then sell it for $5.”
Many birds died in the seized shipments, but many survived too. And they will be returning back home soon.
“All birds who survive are released after they undergo a health check,” Guciano said. “If we hold them any longer, more will die. We release them whilst they are still relatively ‘fresh’ from the wild so they will not need to be rehabilitated.”
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