Songbird Crisis Summit

Trapped for the trade

Songbird keeping is entrenched in local culture and tradition in many Southeast Asian (SEA) nations – these birds often serve as a social status symbol and are kept as companion animals. The illegal and unsustainable capture for the cagebird trade is recognised to be one of the sole causes of decline for many populations in SEA, with a number teetering closer to extinction.

Coming up with a plan

In recognition of this threat, two Songbird Crisis Summits were held in Singapore (in 2015 and 2017) to develop a strategy and action plan for SEA songbirds, and to establish a songbird specialist group under the IUCN-SSC. These summits were attended by a total of over 80 experts from various institutions and expertise. The action plan and specialist group were officially established in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The summits also identified a list of close to 30 songbird species as highest conservation concern, being most at risk from trade. These include the white-rumped shama, black-winged myna and Bali myna.

Global partnership

In May 2017, WRS formed the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) under the auspices of the IUCN SSC, together with other global experts. This is the first time a Singaporean institution is hosting a specialist group under the IUCN SSC. The ASTSG convened for the first time since its formation at a four-day meeting held at the Jurong Bird Park, Singapore on the 29th Mar to 1 Apr 2019. This meeting saw the increasing need to focus not only on Indonesia but also other markets in the region, as well as those beyond Asia. The growing and constantly shifting demand of the songbird trade has also put more species at risk, and the priority list of birds has increased to 44 species, when compared to the list of 28 species identified four years ago.

Protecting songbirds, together

Preventing the extinction continues to be a concerted effort, spanning from changing behaviours and mindsets to fortifying natural sites in habitat protection programmes. WRS will continue to support the conservation efforts of the ASTSG, as well as conservation work, capacity-building and conservation-planning initiatives on the ground. Jurong Bird Park was identified and will continue with conservation breeding efforts, involving local and regional species such as the straw-headed bulbul and greater green leafbird. Through the ASTSG, WRS will continue the fight to save songbirds, implementing solutions that will reverse the decline of songbird populations in the wild. Together, we protect wildlife.

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