Interview about Parrot in Indonesia

Interview: R.Tri Prayudhi

indonesia mapThe Republic of Indonesia in Southeast Asia comprises a staggering 17,508 islands, about 6,000 of which are inhabited. It is the world’s largest archipelagic state and with a population of 222 million people (according to 2006 figures) it is also the world’s fourth most populous country.

Indonesia’s size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography, support the world’s second highest level of biodiversity after Brazil. Its five largest islands – Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea), and Sulawesi – contain some of the world’s rarest wildlife, and an almost overwhelming number of bird species many of which now find themselves on the wrong end of large-scale deforestation, industrialisation, and smuggling for the trade in wild birds. Putting that into figures Indonesia has close to 400 endemic birds: of these about sixty-one species are threatened: thirty-seven species are listed as Vulnerable, twenty-three are Endangered and eleven species are listed as Critical on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (a total of 132).

Included in that list are some of the world’s rarest and most rapidly declining parrot species. Of about 85 parrot species in Indonesia, 14 of them are classified as threatened. Many of these species will probably be hardly known by many birders outside of the region, but they do include species such as the Red-and-blue and Black-headed Lories Eos histrio and Lorius lory, and some of the planet’s rarest cockatoos, eg Palm Cockatoo Probosciger atterimus,Goffin’s Cockatoo Cacatua goffini and the recently re-discovered Yellow-crested Abbott’s Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea abbottii which has a population of just ten wild indivduals.

One organisation working hard to protect the Republic’s biodiversity is ProFauna Indonesia – often in conjunction with Dr Stewart Metz who heads up the Indonesian Parrot Project and whom we interviewed earlier in the month – and we’re very grateful to Mr Tri Prayudhi, ProFauna Indonesia’s Campaign Officer for the interview (which he answered in English and has very kindly translated into Indonesian as well!) and the copyrighted images that follow.

R.Tri Prayudhi, many thanks for taking part in the 10,000 Birds Parrot Month. You work for ProFauna Indonesia. Can I just ask first why you wanted to work for PFI (have you always been interested in animals for example) and whereabouts are you based?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Yes, I work for ProFauna Indonesia. Previously, I was a ProFauna member who had worked voluntarily since 2001. I joined ProFauna when I was a student in a university in Sumatera. My interest in wild animal biodiversity encouraged me to get involved in an NGO that worked especially against cruelties to wild animals: illegal wildlife trade both domestic and international, and for consumption. To me who else but Indonesians should care, care and preserve Indonesian wildlife in their natural habitats. My work for ProFauna covers all Indonesia regions including Maluku and Papua that have natural habitats for parrots.

You live in a part of the world that I would guess not too many of our readers will have visited: if I asked you to describe the region in a few sentences could you, or is there just so many different sides to Indonesia that you’d need a few pages instead?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Indonesia is a mega-biodiversity country. It is estimated that about 300,000 wild animals or 17% of the world animals inhabit Indonesia, despite Indonesia’s land being only 1.3% of the world’s. Indonesia has the largest number of mammals (515 species) and is inhabited by 1,539 bird species. 45% of the world’s fish species live in Indonesia’s waters. However, illegal wildlife trade becomes a huge threat towards wild animals survival in Indonesia. More than 95% of wild animals being traded are caught from the wilderness, instead of captive breeding. More than 20% of the traded animals die because of poor transportation and handling. Many protected and endangered species are traded freely in Indonesia. The more endangered the species are, the higher the prices get.

I would guess though that many of our readers would know of the huge problems of deforestation throughout Indonesia. From where you’re sitting is there still much habitat to save?

  • Tri Prayudhi: The main problem of wildlife in Indonesia is the deforestation causing the degradation of animal population in the wild, besides the poaching for illegal trade. Some areas in Indonesia still have good forests for preserving and saving wild animals, for examples: Halmahera, Maluku, Papua, Kalimantan, Sumatera, even Java. Deforestation is caused by forest conversion into palm plantation both in great and small scales as well as mining sites. This seems to be a dilemma. On one side, forest conversion provides the country’s financial needs and on the other, wild animals are threaten by extinction.

deforestation in indonesia
The Palm Oil industry next to and inside a major Indonesian National Park
Photo from Google Earth

Do you feel that the way the western world focusses on deforestation in Indonesia means that the amazing biodiversity that still remains and can still be saved gets overlooked at all?

  • Tri Prayudhi: This is a complicated problem that needs wise and fair point of view. The facts have shown that Indonesia faces great deforestation threatening the biodiversity. This problem calls help from any stakeholder including the international world, since Indonesian forests contribute ecologically towards other countries in the whole world. Therefore, western countries should help Indonesia to save the forest and the remaining biodiversity. On the contrary, this can be complicated too as the western countries are involved in the palm oil plantation expansion in Indonesia that decimates the forests.

Let’s turn to parrots if we may. Indonesia is an incredibly rich region for parrots: PFI works to preserve all of Indonesia’s biodiversity of course, but how much of your/PFI’s time would you say is spent trying to protect parrots?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Since 1996, ProFauna has worked on parrots issue in Indonesia. ProFauna focuses on illegal parrot trade which threatens parrots’ survival in the wild. ProFauna works through campaigns, education, law enforcement (investigation), and rescue. ProFauna has gained some achievements regarding parrot issues: for example. the decreasing of parrot trade in Ternate, North Maluku (fallen by 80%). Nevertheless, ProFauna has to work harder to fight against the illegal parrot trade in other areas like in Papua and Java Islands.

The information on your website and the data you present on the threats to Indonesia’s parrots are very alarming. You say, for instance, that “Approximately 115,000 parrots are trapped each year in the wild in Papua and Maluku, including the highly endangered Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger atterimus), Black headed Lory (Lorius lory) and Yellow Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita).” Where does data like this come from, and given the size of the region do you think this is possibly an under-estimate of the scale of the problem?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Those data are our 2002 findings from the bird markets monitoring in Java as well as from the in-depth investigation in Papua and Maluku. In 2001, ProFauna assigned its investigators to monitor the parrot trafficking in a sea port in Ternate, Maluku. ProFauna recorded the data every day for a year. Monitoring of bird markets in Java was conducted once a month. Bird market monitoring is ProFauna’s regular program that has been carried out from 1994 until present. However, we think that the figure is below the real condition because of Indonesia’s vast areas and the parrots wider distribution. This means that there is more parrot poaching and trafficking in the real situation which are not monitored and covered by ProFauna’s investigation.

You launched Pirated Parrots recently to further highlight the problem of the poaching of wild parrots. The figures you again quote are staggering and can’t in any way be sustainable. Are you able to say that some species of Indonesian parrots are definitely being driven towards extinction by such poaching?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Pirated Parrots is ProFauna’s investigation report that reveals the evidences of parrot poaching, trade, and smuggling to the Philippines. Based on the investigation, the species that are poached and smuggled are white Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), Chattering Lory (Lorius garrulus), Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus), and Violet-necked Lory (Eos squamata). Eclectus parrot is a protected species in Indonesia which is prohibited to be traded [See a recent ProFauna press-release HERE about the successful foiling of the smuggling of six wild Eclectus Parrots].

lory smuggled in indonesia
Red-and-blue Lory crammed into a plastic bottle by a bird trapper

What can be done to halt poaching on this scale?

  • Tri Prayudhi: The most important way to tackle this is through law enforcement. In doing this, ProFauna has always been urging the government to publish a regional regulation to prohibit anyone poaching and carrying endemic parrots out from North Maluku. The regulation recommended by ProFauna should bear punishment both fine and prison terms for the offenders. Apart from this, ProFauna holds educational campaigns at remote schools in Ternate and Halmahera island, close to the forests of the parrot habitats, and public campaign in the form of demonstration demanding the government to conduct confiscation operations towards parrot traders, poachers, and dealers in Maluku, as well as in Surabaya and Jakarta, the centers of parrot trade in Indonesia.

Indonesia has a very large human population – many of whom are poor. How can you persuade poor people not to see parrots as a commodity or a resource to be traded or – perhaps – eaten?

  • Tri Prayudhi: The local people who live adjacent to the parrots habitats usually have traditional or local regulations (literally and verbally) that won’t allow the people to catch and hunt birds for commercial purpose. Unfortunately, the capital economy law (supply and demand ) encourages the people to break the regulations. The bird prices in big cities and international world lure the local people to poach and trade the birds. In big cities and the international world, the more endangered a species is, the price get much higher. At the local level, the prices get lower since more people hunt and supply the birds. This means that local people stay poor. In order to raise the people awareness on this problem are by education, enforce the traditional or local regulation, and give alternative jobs for poor people that live close to the forests. As revealed by ProFauna investigation to the poachers living close to the forests, the main job of the locals is not poaching, poaching birds is just their side jobs. The main job is as a farmer. In dry season, the locals look for alternative jobs, on of which is by poaching birds, especially parrots. On other the other side, people keep poaching because there is a demand from the illegal market.

Does the answer to protecting Indonesia’s parrot need to come from within Indonesia itself or does international pressure help as well?

  • Tri Prayudhi: The illegal parrot trade in Indonesia is not only to supply the domestic market but also the international one. The international support must be had. One of the international pressures needed is to ban the trade in Indonesian endemic species at international market. By doing so, the trade of Indonesian parrots will be closed down. If there is no demand from the international market, there will be no more illegal supply of Indonesian parrots. For example, the Pirated Parrots report has shown the evidences that 49% of 10,000 parrots are smuggled to the Philippines each year. Arriving at the Philippines, Indonesian parrots were freely sold. Moreover, the birds were labeled as captive bred. The latest news in January 2009, the smuggling of 93 parrots and some other wild animals from Tobelo, Halmahera Island, North Maluku to Davao, Philippines.

parrots smuggled in indonesia

Wild parrots being held by a bird dealer

How important is working with international groups such as the World Parrot Trust, Born Free, and the RSPCA International to you?

  • Tri Prayudhi: To tackle the illegal wildlife trade needs international support. ProFauna considers it important to work together with international organisations that have the same visions with ProFauna.

Indonesia will seem a long way from many of our readers, but I’m sure some of them will want to support your work. What could they do to help?

  • Tri Prayudhi: Don’t buy Indonesian parrots as pets because most of them are caught from the wild, instead of captive bred. Help ProFauna in any way. However small it is, a donation will be valuable for ProFauna to save wildlife in Indonesia.

lory smuggled in indonesia
Indonesian cockatoos in Manila’s wildlife market

R.Tri Prayudhi, many thanks for the very valuable work you do and all the best to you and ProFauna Indonesia for 2009.

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