Rescuers go undercover to bust Indonesian songbird smuggling route

26 March 2019

More than 300 birds rescued after charity tails smuggling ring on 400 kilometre bus ride and discovers the birds being trafficked underneath the bus.

Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner FLIGHT this month successfully rescued 322 songbirds which had been poached from the forests of South Sumatra and were being smuggled to the capital of Jakarta.

The rescue was possible thanks to the undercover monitoring efforts of FLIGHT and as a result, the birds were immediately released back into the wild.

Marison Guciano, Director of FLIGHT Indonesia, said:

“I suspected the birds were being smuggled by inter-city buses so I took the night bus myself to see what was happening. Late in the night, the bus stopped by the roadside in a wooded area and I saw poachers load cardboard boxes full of birds into the luggage storage.

“Just as we got to the port town where the bus must take a ferry to reach Java, the bus stopped for petrol and again I saw the birds being moved from the luggage area into a hidden compartment underneath the bus.

“Of course, I immediately contacted my colleagues at the port quarantine area and told them exactly where to search the bus, and as we arrived at Bakaheuni Port at 4am, the officers were standing by.”


Tragically, rare and indigenous birds are poached from throughout the Indonesia archipelago to be sold in markets on the nation’s largest island, Java.

Particularly desirable are a variety of birds native to Sumatra such as sunbirds, tailorbirds, leafbirds, bulbuls and nuthatches.

FLIGHT believe more than 10,000 birds are smuggled from Sumatra to Java every week to be sold at markets to collectors who value their singing voices.

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


Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said: 

“This operation is an excellent example of FLIGHT’s direct action having direct results. Poachers and smugglers make a lot of money from their illegal trade so FLIGHT’s efforts to personally conduct investigations show bravery and dedication. The result was more than 300 birds rescued – an incredible achievement.”

Since being founded in 2018, FLIGHT have rescued more than 6,000 songbirds, disrupted smuggling networks and raised awareness of the illegal trade in Indonesia.