Reducing the trade in live songbirds in Indonesia
Published December 2018
Over one million live songbirds, including critically endangered species, are trapped every year in Indonesia. Using a bottom-up community-driven approach, Planet Indonesia has initiated workshops to raise awareness in Western Borneo and has developed alternative livelihoods for low-income bird trapping communities. This has had positive results, there are now fewer traps and nets in the forest and local people have a greater understanding of the importance of and threats to songbirds.
Pontianak is the biggest city in Western Borneo and is home to over 100 small bird shops. The Mount Niut area is to the east of Pontianak and contains a nature reserve, which gives it a higher protection status than national parks in Indonesia. In theory, even entering the forest requires a permit, but local inhabitants, some of them ethnic Dayak who have lived off the forest for generations, have found it difficult to adjust to the rules.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Black-winged Mynas Acridotheres melanopterus , Pied Myna Gracupica contra , White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricusProducts in trade
Live birds for the pet trade.
Overview of the problem
Bird keeping in Indonesia is not only a popular past time and hobby, but in many western cities is a sign of wealth, sophistication, and stature. Birds are caught alive through a number of indiscriminate methods. It is common for birds to suffer and sometimes die during trapping, and other species such as pangolins can be caught accidentally too. Much of the trade in songbirds happens in the open and birds can be bought freely in shops and markets.
The anti-IWT initiative
With over one million live songbirds traded each year in Indonesia, Planet Indonesia decided to host a workshop of trappers and traders to talk about solutions to reduce the threats to these species. In February 2017, 45 bird poachers, traders and hobbyists spent two days together and unanimously agreed that the loss and extinction of Indonesian birds would have a negative impact on everyone.
The workshops revealed that individuals were not aware that trapping birds was illegal, with participants frustrated that the government didn’t set quotas on trade and, in particular, that low-income trappers had no opportunities to generate income from alternative means. The intention was that the 45 participants would act as the eyes and ears in their various communities and help Planet Indonesia set up additional community outreach events in the nine districts of West Borneo. Held back by a lack of knowledge and capital, Planet Indonesia now assists traders and bird shopkeepers in the area, hoping to help some of them transition into different lines of business, such as running a coffee shop or convenience store. Planet Indonesia works in the Mount Niut area focusing on creating incentives for poachers and traders to stop hunting songbirds. The program in Mount Niut helps farmers to become more productive and profitable, for example by linking them with buyers for their crops, with the aim of reducing incentives to hunt in the forest.
In addition, Planet Indonesia is involving local residents in forest patrols, meaning larger areas can be covered. A standardised monitoring and reporting tool has created more transparency and trust in the process. As an incentive to stop the poaching, community members participating in patrols are compensated. In addition, Planet Indonesia works with locals, often those who were once involved in the bird trade, to gather information and educate hobbyists and traders on the threats of continued poaching.
This approach is unique in Indonesia where conservation efforts have primarily been focussed on strengthening law enforcement.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Has the initiative made a difference?
The awareness raising workshops have gained momentum due to their success. As a result of the initial workshop, Planet Indonesia plans to hold similar awareness building workshops in another 9 districts, targeting a further 900 trappers. These events will be organised by traders, for traders and run by traders, although Planet Indonesia will act as facilitators, helping to empower participants to implement these community workshops.
Community patrols have also led to a reduction in the number of traps and nets in the forest.
Organisers, donors and partners
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