Illegal bird smuggling operation intercepted leading to release of thousands of Indonesian birds

22 November 2019

In October and November our Indonesian partners FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia's Birds worked with local authorities to track down illegal wild bird traffickers and in the process rescued thousands of birds! Animals Asia helps fund the work of FLIGHT, along with our friends at Change for Animals Foundation. 

On the morning of 14 October, FLIGHT investigators travelled  from their base in Jakarta to Lampung, Sumatra to investigate the illegal trade in wild birds. In Lampung, they received information about bird smuggling by  poachers in South Sumatra to wholesalers in Lampung. From there, the intended final destination for the birds was Java — a whopping 1,200km from the birds’ home in the wild.

The next day, another informant reported to the FLIGHT investigators that a bus carrying hundreds of illegal birds was heading to Bakauheni Port on its way to Jakarta. The investigators immediately contacted the police at the Port who managed to intercept the bus and confiscate hundreds of birds.


On 18 October, another investigator in Lubuk Linggau successfully disguised himself as a passenger in a car that was acting as a taxi as well as illegally transporting birds. He informed the investigator in Lampung to get ready to intercept the vehicle.

The investigator in Lampung contacted the Forestry authorities and the police. The joint team then closed in on the traffickers at six in the morning. The car was stopped in Central Lampung before it arrived at its destination of Bandar Lampung. After a health check, the rescued birds were released into the wild.

In November, FLIGHT managed to save more than 4,500 birds from illegal trade through two operations mounted in just one day.

The operation began on 8 November when five FLIGHT investigators again travelled from Jakarta to Lampung, where they were joined by a sixth investigator. While three investigators remained in Lampung, the other three went to South Sumatra to investigate reports of illegal bird poaching. There, the three investigators separated; two went to Lubuk Linggau District and one went to Lahat District.

The two investigators in Lubuk Linggau informed the Lampung team that a poacher would be sending thousands of illegal birds to Lampung by car. The Lampung team immediately contacted the Forestry authorities and moved to North Lampung to intercept the car.


At 6am, the car was stopped. It was confiscated and taken to the office of the Forestry Authority (BKSDA) in Bandar Lampung. Inside the car, officers found more than 1,500 birds, including bar-winged prinia, cinereous tit, sunda pygmy woodpecker and the threatened greater green leafbird. After undergoing a health check, the birds were released back to the wild on the same day. The perpetrators are still being questioned and will face prosecution.

The team then discovered that a wholesaler in Lampung was intending to smuggle birds to Jakarta. So three investigators moved to the wholesaler’s warehouse while the other three waited at Bakauheni Port.

The team investigating the wholesaler's warehouse found a car full of illegal birds. The team at Bakaheuni Port was informed of its impending arrival.

Marison Guciano, the team coordinator at the Port, contacted the Head of the Criminal and Investigation Unit at the Bakauheni Port Police.

One police officer and three FLIGHT investigators moved to the port entrance. The car was successfully intercepted and taken to the port police station. 

Inside the car, police found and seized 3,092 birds, including the endangered Sumatran laughingthrush, cinereous tit, and prinia. After undergoing a health check, all the surviving birds were released the next day.

FLIGHT’s Executive Director Marison Guciano said:

“These operations have been incredibly successful and I’d like to pay tribute to the whole team at FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia’s Birds as well as the authorities who have helped us catch the traffickers. I’d also like to send a warm thank you to Animals Asia and its supporters for the help and funding that makes these investigations possible. Indonesia’s birds are beautiful and ought to be able to live out their lives in their homes in the wild. Thanks to all of the people, all around the world whose support means that these thousands of birds are free again!”


FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia’s Birds’ investigations show that more than 1 million Sumatran wild birds are stolen from the wild every year, to supply Indonesia's bird markets, mainly on Java. In the past year and a half, FLIGHT has investigated, blacklisted traders, and mapped Sumatran bird trade routes.

FLIGHT has also worked with Quarantine Authorities, the Police and Forestry Authority to prevent bird smuggling. We have, together, saved more than 25,000 birds in more than 25 rescue operations. After a health check, all the surviving birds are released back into the wild.

These rescues were widely reported in Indonesian media both locally and nationally, including on CNN. The coverage of the rescues will hopefully help to deter other bird poachers in the future. Animals Asia is incredibly proud of our association with and support of FLIGHT: Protecting Indonesia’s Birds and extends a huge thanks from all of our supporters to Marison Guciano and his fantastic team for the remarkable work they do to bring about these investigations, seizures, health checks and releases!

READ MORE: Poachers reeling as crackdown uncovers four illegal songbird shipments in a week