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Silent Forest Campaign

Songbirds in Southeast Asia have become the subject of an excessive but culturally deep-rooted consumption for trade, singing competitions, pets, status symbols, export, traditional medicine and food. Demand for songbirds in Southeast Asia is extremely high, affecting hundreds of species and involving millions of individual birds, annually.

The trade is often illegal and evidently unsustainable; thus, it has been recognised as a primary threat for many species in Southeast Asia, particularly the Greater Sunda region. Comprising of Brunei, western Indonesia (Bali, Java, Kalimantan and Sumatra), Singapore, Malaysia, southern Myanmar and southern Thailand, the Greater Sundas are an ecologically diverse region, home to more than 850 bird species, and globally recognised as a biodiversity hotspot with high levels of endemism.

And why here?

The problem is cultural. In Southeast Asia, caged songbirds have long been favourite family pets. Bird ownership is a celebrated custom and everyone can buy some kind of bird in the market, regardless of their social status. However, it is not simply about pets.

Songbird competitions are also culturally important and provide financial motivation for family income. While the tradition may have evolved and altered over time, the culture of keeping songbirds has endured and turned into a sport and a massive industry that includes all sub-suppliers for cages, food, supplements.

There is a myriad of bird clubs, while songbird competitions are major “sporting” events, making them a lucrative business. Although there are many legitimate captive breeders in Indonesia, there are still an alarming number of trappers, wholesalers and shops illegally trading in wild-caught birds. This is mainly because people believe that wild birds sing better and are stronger and more potent. Moreover, it is simply often much easier to catch rather than breed a songbird. Unfortunately, huge numbers of wild-caught birds do not live beyond the first few days in their cages.

And why now?

The aims of the campaign are to address and mitigate the ongoing songbird extinction crisis in Asia and increase awareness within and beyond the zoo community. Achieving these aims means ensuring the zoo community has the capability to scramble the resources needed in manpower, know-how and funding to save a growing number of Asian songbird species from imminent extinction.

The campaign focuses on following activities:

within the EAZA region:

  • Increase awareness in the general public and within the zoo world
  • Fundraise for conservation efforts to prevent extinctions.
  • Provide ideas and information to enable environmental education in zoos.
  • Provide know-how, mentorship and manpower to support and initiate conservation breeding programs and related ex-situ research activities.

within the natural range:

  • Increase regional awareness and implement environmental education strategies in cooperation with local and international stakeholders.
  • Develop regionally relevant husbandry guidelines for all focus species, and support their legal scientifically managed breeding in-region.
  • Build awareness and capacity for law enforcement within the region.
  • Initiate, develop and support in-region conservation breeding centres where this is deemed necessary.
  • Support research initiatives designed to improve the scientific basis of reintroduction programmes

We at The Green Planet Dubai, have also joined the campaign. Click here to know more.