Animals Asia partner rescues over 1,000 sunbirds during covert investigation

04 June 2019

FLIGHT, West Java BKSDA and Cilegon Quarantine officials prepare to release the birds

Stake out leads to the rescue and release of over 1,000 sunbirds putting smugglers on the back foot.

On May 26, wildlife criminals were dealt a stunning blow as Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner FLIGHT rescued over 1,000 sunbirds being illicitly trafficked into songbird markets in the nation’s capital.

Following visual health checks, 920 of the Van Hasselt’s sunbirds – a species vital to the pollination of flora in Indonesia’s jungles – were released back into the wild. 160 of the birds had died during transit.

Marison Guciano, Director of FLIGHT Indonesia, who conducted the rescue, said:

“The rescue of 1,000 birds is a huge achievement and will make smugglers think twice about using such brazen routes. Their networks have been disrupted and awareness among locals as to the illegality of trading endangered species has increased.”

The rescue was made possible after weeks of investigations into smuggling routes originating in Pekanbaru on the island of Sumatra.

While Van Hasselt’s sunbirds were removed from Indonesia’s list of protected species in 2018, official permission is still required to remove them from the wild.

Thanks to information from FLIGHT, quarantine officials at Merak Port, Java were able to intercept a passenger bus containing boxes of the live birds.

FLIGHT believes up to 10,000 protected species of songbirds are trafficked into the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, on Java island each week, where they are sold in markets.

READ MORE: Rescuers go undercover to bust Indonesian songbird smuggling route

Close up of birds in smuggling boxes_cropped

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“I’m very proud of FLIGHT’s work to combat wildlife crime in their own communities. These guys are out there on the ground, refusing to let these wild animals be poached and sold into lives of cruel captivity.

“The sheer number of animals they have rescued and released to date is staggering and is testament to the success of their methods. Their brilliant work will be making poachers – and those who purchase endangered species – think again.”

FLIGHT was established in 2018 in order to stem the illegal trade in Indonesia’s songbirds.

To date, the group has rescued over 10,000 songbirds from illegal traffickers, the vast majority of which were returned to the wild immediately.

Animals Asia provides funding and mentorship to FLIGHT in order to help them achieve their goals of protecting Indonesia’s songbirds and stopping the country’s jungles from falling silent.

READ MORE: FLIGHT: Meet the people working tirelessly to stop Indonesia’s jungles falling silent

FLIGHT ascertain the health of the birds