Since last year I’ve been traveling around Indonesia.
This led me to fall in love with this country; such an array of different cultures, friendly people, amazing landscapes and unique fauna and flora.
On the other hand I’ve been worried about the uncontrolled trade of wildlife and the effects of it.
I’ve heard too many times that one of the causes is the culture and tradition. This is explained by the saying “A successful Javanese man must have five things: a horse, a house, a wife, a Kris and a bird in a cage.” The horse means a way of transportation, the house and wife don’t need to be explained, the Kris is the ceremonial dagger and the bird for his song and the meaning of it.
Well, this might be one of the reasons and an explanation for the amount of birds in cages, but not all Indonesians are Javanese and according to Javanese tradition, the symbol bird is the perkutut (Zebra-dove) not just any bird.
However, what we see in the Indonesian wildlife markets hardly reflect this tradition. Almost anything can be found; besides mammals (civets, monkeys, bats…) and reptiles (pythons, lizards…) the number of bird species traded is astonishing. In just one visit to one of these markets I’ve been able to identify more than 120 species of birds, some of them I find it hard to understand the reason why they’ve been caught; they’re not especially good singers nor colorful.
Many of them won’t adapt to a cage (and aren’t suitable for pets) and will die in these markets.
Hide in the back of the shops we can spot a bird of prey and these are regarded as symbol status, but most of the times the way they’re kept is quite poor and most will not reach the final buyer.
I read in a book that this can be compared to buy cut flowers and indeed it is, as most of these birds will die in a few weeks or days…
Once common birds around villages, Magpie-robins and White-rumped Shamas are now absent from most areas. Javan Sparrow? Only thrives in protected areas (and even there they’re not safe). Bali Myna is probably the best example; the “wild” population is hardly safe and even the birds kept in captivity reproduction programs are often stolen and can be found in the markets. These are just a few examples…
Another problem is how these animals are kept: dozens, sometimes hundreds of specimens, are squeezed in cages, hardly suitable for just one. Dead ones are rotting amongst the ones still alive.
This is the perfect environment for the spread of diseases (who forgot the problem of avian influenza?!).
I can think of some solutions, but the main one should be the law enforcement and government commitment to conservation.
There’s a spread idea of corruption among the authorities in this country and the trade of parrots, birds of prey and valuable species is often perpetuated by them.
Indonesian government should show commitment to protect wildlife and ensure that law is enforced and respected. Bad performances of conservation departments should be punished, and of course, a good performance should be rewarded.
An extensive environmental education program in schools must be a priority. Future generations are the only hope for the safety of wildlife and nature conservation in Indonesia.
This must end, if we want the future generations to enjoy this marvelous wildlife diversity.