Figure 1 An Oriental Bay Owl (Phodius badilus) for sale at Malang Bird Market (Photo credit:TRAFFIC)
Have you ever been to Indonesia? Please zoom in to Java Island. Keep zooming into the eastern part of Java, and you will find two most developed city there, Surabaya and Malang. If you are a keen bird watcher and wanted to see the diverse Javanese wild birds, please don’t book any itinerary to the natural areas around East Java yet. Turn your smartphone on, type Pasar Burung Kupang or Pasar Splendid Malang on your google maps browser and you might find them easier than in the wild. There you would find the pieces of the sixth mass extinction process occurring in a daylight.
On a three day survey in the three wildlife market in Surabaya, one in Malang and one in Yogyakarta (Central Java), Traffic (a Wildlife Trading Network Organisation) has observed nearly 23 000 birds of 241 species being traded. Among those, 98% (22 348 individual of 213 species) of the birds were native to Indonesia. Additionally, more than 3.000 birds from 56 species or 15% of those native birds are endemic to Indonesia.
Many of these birds are now rarely seen in their natural habitat. The Greater Green Leafbird for example, based on my 5 years’ experience of working in one of the national park near Malang, is hardly spotted in our park. I will definitely have greater chance to see this bird at Malang Bird’s market. This bird is a forest dwelling species, although quite tolerant to disturbance, it always live in tree canopies. It is also a favorite bird among hobbyists for its melodious song. Captive breeding success for this species is unknown to date, the traded birds at markets must have been collected from the wild.
The rate of illegal bird trade in Java is at an alarming rate. Approximately one out of three household in Java are keeping bird as pet. It might be related to the cultural view on birds within some ethnic communities. Javanese and Balinese are among the highest ethnic group among seven distinct ethnic that involved in a survey about keeping bird as pet. It is possibly a misinterpreted cultural value. The interest of keeping bird in those culture might be rooted from a high appreciation of wildlife but turn into disaster for the wildlife in practice.
Another case to illustrate the severity of bird trade in Java is the case of smugglers who tried to smuggle 21 Yellow Crested Cockatoo from eastern part of Indonesia to Surabaya. Those bird were treated very bad. It was stuffed in the plastic bottle and many of them were died.
The protection of wildlife bird in in Indonesian legislation is generally adequate. Ranged from the Conservation Act and the List of National Endangered Species, to The Captive Breeding trade regulation. However, the listing of a species in the endangered list could become a backslash against the positive aim. For example, the declaration of Javan hawk Eagle as National Symbol and protected species in 1993 resulted on the increasing rate of trade and demand of this species in the wildlife market. It seems that the rarer a species, the more keen people on keeping that species as pet.
There are several point that we can raise to reduce the wildlife trade, particularly bird in Indonesia. The first one is through the awareness raising. It could be the key step in plummeting the wildlife trade within a community. However, the awareness campaign should target the right audience. The targeted audience could be examined by conducting a thorough research on the consumer trends. For instance, the target audience could be based on ethnic group, age classes, gender, education, etc. The second option is the law enforcement by government. And the third one is the robust monitoring system. Engaging people in this monitoring system could be crucial because government is unlikely able to handle it without broader stakeholder getting involve in. Employing technology for instance could be really useful in engaging community in the monitoring program. Indonesian government perhaps could adopt something like Wildlife Witness, an app developed by Taronga Zoo in Sydney and TRAFFIC. With this app, people could report a wildlife trade activities securely and anonymously. By combining those methods above, hopefully we can see a significant decline of wildlife trade in the future.