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

28 August 2019

Nearly 2,000 birds have been rescued from smugglers in a week thanks to the work of Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner, FLIGHT.

For years, poachers and smugglers have found the illegal trafficking in songbirds to be a lucrative trade.

Poached from Indonesia’s vast jungles using glue traps, the birds are transported to the capital city of Jakarta on the island of Java to be sold in to lives of captivity in the country’s songbird markets.

But thanks to Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner FLIGHT, quarantine officials are now receiving well-researched tip offs on when illegal shipments are due at the country’s ports and where the birds are being hidden.

Bỉrds in cage found by FLIGHT

Marison Guciano, Director of FLIGHT Indonesia said:

“Indonesia’s songbirds are a key part of forest ecosystems but are being illegally poached at a rate which is simply not sustainable.

“Working with the authorities we’ve been able to bust four illegal shipments in the last week, saving 2,000 songbirds from a lifetime of cruel captivity.

“This is sending a clear message to the poachers, the smugglers and the traders – they cannot conduct their illegal activities with impunity, they are being watched and we are getting even better at knowing where, when and how they are operating”.

On August 14, FLIGHT investigators enabled the Bakaheuni Port quarantine officials to intercept a shipment of 910 songbirds being transported on a long-distance night bus.

The bird, including chestnut-capped laughingthrushes, ashy tailorbirds, and cinereous tits were all released the next day following a medical examination.

The very next day, on August 15, FLIGHT were back in action, tipping off the police to a shipment of 738 birds in a private car due to pass through Bakaheuni Port.

The rescued birds, including white-eyes, bar-winged prinia, and black drongo, were all released back into their natural habitat the next day.

With more illegal shipments having been pinpointed, FLIGHT were back at the port on August 16, this time on the lookout for two private cars believed to be carrying over 1,000 birds.

The cars were tailed on their long journey from West Sumatra to the port of Bakaheuni, while another team of investigators waited for them at the port.

Indonesia's quarantine officials rescued birds from poachers

At close to midnight, the two cars attempted to pass a quarantine point and were quickly apprehended. Over 1,000 song birds were found crammed into crates including white eyes, crested jays, hanging parrots, blue-winged leafbirds, and Sumatran laughingthrush, all of which were released back to the wild the very next day. 

Finally, on August 20, FLIGHT learned attempts would be made to smuggle birds on a bus from Pekanbaru, Sumatra to Java.

A FLIGHT investigator covertly boarded the bus at a restaurant stop in Lampung and remained in contact with the quarantine authorities at Merak Port where the officials were able to save 384 birds crammed into 11 crates in the bus luggage compartment.

The spate of rescues means FLIGHT have now rescued an incredible 15,000 birds since being set up in February 2018.

Animals Asia provides funding and mentorship to FLIGHT in order to help them achieve their vital work of saving Indonesia’s songbirds.

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“The rampant poaching of Indonesia’s songbirds is both a conservation and an animal welfare issue. Once sold into captivity, these birds will be placed in tiny cages which they will never leave. They will never fly again or engage in any natural behaviours except for singing.

“We won’t let that happen, not only because every bird captured is an individual who deserves freedom, but also because these birds are vitally important to Indonesia’s ecosystems.

“With Animals Asia’s help, FLIGHT have been able to stop huge numbers of birds from suffering a truly awful fate and we will continue to support their vital work.”

FLIGHT believes up to 10,000 Sumatran songbirds are illegally poached from the wild and smuggled into Java to supply the demand for bird markets every week. 

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

FLIGHT cooperates with Indonesia government to protect birds