Archived 2016 topics: Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati): uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened or Vulnerable?

Greater Green Leafbird occurs in southern Myanmar, southwest Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra and Java. It is currently classified as Least Concern on the basis that it does not approach any of the thresholds for classification as Vulnerable.

This species was present at very low numbers in the markets at the turn of the century, with none recorded in Medan in 1997 and 1998 then 110 observed in the following three years (Shepherd 2006). Numbers slowly increased with an annual number traded through the markets in Medan estimated at 842 birds during 2012-2013 (Harris et al. 2015). Since then however, the species has suddenly come into fashion (Eaton et al. 2015), and right now mind-boggling numbers are being traded. J. Eaton in litt. (2016) states that 5000 individuals per month are currently being imported from Sarawak into Kalimantan. Regardless of the very large range and assumed population size this species is thought to be declining at a significant rate as a direct result of this exploitation.

Information is requested on evidence for the impacts on wild populations hinting at the scale of any decline, for example repeated visits to the same locations over the last few years and indications of price increases for the species in large markets. The fact that the source for the majority of birds going into the trade now is beyond the shores of Indonesia suggests that accessible populations within the country have already collapsed to a considerable degree. Over how much of the range is this true? Are Greater Green Leafbirds being trapped in Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, and is therefore at risk across its whole range? Although this has been an abundant bird in the recent past and has a very large distribution it appears that the volume of trade, coupled with significant deforestation (itself facilitating access to a greater proportion of habitat) could realistically have caused or be causing global declines of the order of 30-49% within the last or next 12.6 years (3 generations). If so, this species would qualify for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A2d + 3d + 4d.

 

References:

Chng, S. C. L., Eaton, J. A., Krishnasamy, K., Shepherd, C. R. & Nijman, V. 2015. In the market for extinction: an inventory of Jakarta’s bird markets. Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: TRAFFIC.

Eaton, J.A., Shepherd, C.R., Rheindt, F.E., Harris, J.B.C., van Balen, S. (B.), Wilcove, D.S. and Collar, N.J. 2015. Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia. Forktail 31: 1-12.

Harris, J. B. C., Green, J. M. H., Prawiradilaga, D. M., Giam, X., Giyanto, Hikmatullah, D., Putra, C. A. & Wilcove, D. S. 2015. Using market data and expert opinion to identify overexploited species in the wild bird trade. Biol. Conserv. 187: 51–60.

Shepherd, C. R. 2006. The bird trade in Medan, North Sumatra: an overview. BirdingASIA 5: 16–24.

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8 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati): uplist from Least Concern to Near Threatened or Vulnerable?

  1. James Eaton says:

    Given the rate of decline (how long can 5000 a month just at one border cross sustain), and the obvious lack of birds found in the wild in Peninsular Malaysia now, surely an uplisting to Endangered would be more appropriate. During past 3 years of birding in the lowland forests in Peninsular Malaysia, the species is now rarely encountered (in states of Johor, Pahang, Kedah and Perak), and vastly outnumbered by Lesser Green Leafbird. On most birding days the species is no longer recorded, whereas it was recorded on most visits just five years ago (pers obs). Recent visits to Sumatra reveal the same, and it is the species most trappers are now searching for (van Balen in litt).
    Serene Chng will follow up with seizure data from Indonesia to backup the vast numbers being traded to highlight the seriousness of the trapping of this species.

  2. Adam Miller says:

    Planet Indonesia is a grassroots NGO based in West Kalimantan (Borneo) Indonesia. Among a number of programs, we are currently the only local NGO in the region with a large program focused on the wild bird trade. Beginning in 2015 we began the first investigations into the wild bird trade in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Our initial goal was to challenge the idea that the bird trade in Indonesia was a Java/Sumatran-centric enterprise, and investigate if the bird trade was rampant in rural areas among other ethnic groups as well.

    We investigated the 7 major cities in West Kalimantan and traveled major roads connecting urban and rural areas to map out shops and collect data. From 3 (ranging from 5-6 weeks per survey minimum time between surveys 6 weeks) surveys covering the entirety of West Borneo, we found a total of 13,498 individual from 123 species in over 90 different shops.

    Our data raises extreme cause for concern as we had not expected to find such a large number of species sold in rural and underdeveloped areas in of Indonesia.

    We strongly support the uplisting of this species to Vulnerable. Across our surveys it was the 5th most commonly traded species (720 individuals for sale).

    From our interviews with shop owners when asked which species were the hardest to find, in highest demand, and increasing quickly in price across the board the Greater Green Leafbird was listed.

    Our data shows that this species is of high demand and increasing in demand. It was one of the species we found to be traded across borders from Malayasian-Borneo to Indonesian-Borneo.

    This indicates that this species has been decimated (at least in West Kalimantan) and trappers are seeking out new forests to target this species.

    We do have limited wild data on this species from Gunung Palung National Park. In a 2 month field study across a 119 point counts this species was only found at 9 points.

    A major limitation is the short timeframe of this study (note only 2 months of field sampling), however, as this species should be common in the lowland forests of Gunung Palung its lack of appearance across point counts does raise cause for concern.

    Therefore, we support the uplisting of this species to Vulnerable.

  3. Serene Chng says:

    TRAFFIC would like to share information on trade observations of this species, in a bid to quantify and better understand the threat from overexploitation. We welcome the re-assessment of the conservation status of this species and suggest that it may meet the Endangered criteria based on rates of decline as a result of a surge in exploitation.

    Trade is a far greater threat to the species than previously thought. High volumes observed in recent wildlife trade surveys of bird markets in Indonesia, recent reports of seizures made by authorities have shown that this species is now in great demand as a cage bird, as well as suspected increasing rarity in some locations noticed by professional bird watching tour companies and researchers indicate the Greater Green Leafbird may be in peril due to unsustainable and illegal capture for trade. In recent years, it has been included as a competition class species for songbird competitions, which is likely to have increased demand for the species.

    As noted in the species account, this species was first observed in unexpectedly high numbers in the survey in Jakarta (Chng et al., 2015), the fourth more numerous species comprising 6.6% of all birds recorded. A further 658 individuals were recorded in an inventory of five markets in Surabaya, Malang and Yogyakarta in June 2015, making it the ninth most numerous species recorded (Chng and Eaton, 2016). Relatively fewer volumes (17 individuals from 13 stalls) were recorded for sale in Bandung in September 2016 (less than 0.5%), where one individual said to be from Sumatra was priced at USD99 (IDR1.3 million).

    In Jakarta, traders interviewed suggested birds originated from Sumatra (also referred to by traders as ‘Lampung’ – a generic term used to describe birds from Sumatra as it’s the nearest port to Java). In Surabaya and Yogyakarta traders indicated that birds originated from both Sumatra and Kalimantan, along with other species such as White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus and Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis.

    Few price data are available for the species in Indonesia. In 1987, Greater Green Leafbird cost just USD14 (Basuni and Setiyani, 1989), rising to USD44 in 2014 (Chng et al., 2015) and USD99 in 2016. However, there appear to be multiple factors determining the value of birds, based mostly on the quality of their song and singing abilities.

    Greater Green Leafbirds have also been recorded for sale in Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore, and Viet Nam, albeit in much smaller volumes (TRAFFIC data). It is unclear where these animals are sourced from.

    Extremely worrying volumes of Greater Green Leafbirds have been confiscated, especially in Indonesia. Between October 2014 and September 2016, a total of 13 seizures of at least 2244 Greater Green Leafbirds were recorded from open media sources. All were seized in Indonesia, except one bird in one case in Malaysia. Location details from the seizures indicate that most shipments originate from Kalimantan and Sumatra, and are destined for major cities in Java; 2019 of the birds were seized in a spate of three seizures originating from Kalimantan and were seized by port authorities in Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya. One of these shipments (1411 individuals) was destined for Pasar Pramuka in Jakarta while another (408 individuals) was destined for Semarang. Yet another shipment of 140 birds seized at Minangkabau Airport in Padang was destined for Jakarta. Of particular concern is the mortality rate of the seized birds. In the biggest shipment on 2 December 2015, 678 of 1411 Greater Green Leafbirds discovered had perished three days later due to lack of care during shipment, malnourishment, dehydration and stress. There have also been confiscation incidents involving poachers found with this species, including two from Gunung Leuser National Park.

    The trade information indicates high demand for the species, high volumes which are almost entirely wild-sourced present in trade and examples of trapping even in protected areas. Our available records and information only constitute an unknown proportion of all the trade taking place, and there is reason to believe that the exploitation is more widespread, suggesting that an Endangered listing might be more appropriate.

  4. Serene Chng says:

    I am posting some additional information demonstrating the volumes of trapping and trade to further support uplisting of the species to Endangered:

    Information from Planet Indonesia indicates that in West Kalimantan, traders interviewed suggested birds were sourced locally (A. Miller unpub. data). Birds were either then sold to local shops are transported to major port cities where they were then transported to Java. In the Bengkayang district on the Malaysian-Indonesian border traders were actively smuggling birds across the Indonesian-Malaysian Bornean border. They identified one trader who traded as many as 6,000 individuals per month from Malaysian Borneo to Kalimantan. Anecdotal evidence from locals indicated many individuals along the Indonesian-Malaysian border in Borneo traded large amounts of Greater Green Leafbirds, among other popular species (e.g. Magpie Robin, White-rumped Shama). More survey efforts are needed to understand the supply of birds moved from Malaysia to Indonesia for the trade.

  5. Rob Martin (BirdLife International) says:

    It seems clear from the welcome and detailed comments that the extent and level of the trade is sufficient to be causing a rapid decline in a relatively large proportion of the range of Greater Green Leafbird, which is suspected to be causing a rapid population decline over the last three generations and considered likely to continue into the future.

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to list Greater Green Leafbird as Vulnerable under criterion A2d + 3d + 4d.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.
    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Bas van Balen says:

    Calling it vulnerable seems to be an understatement. Where bird trappers in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java were all focussed at Straw-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama , long and not so long ago, they are now all going for Greater Green Leafbird, until none are left, and they will have their next target species. I am afraid that, as with the bulbul and shama we will be too late again for adequate actions.

  7. Adam Miller says:

    From Planet Indonesia we also push for higher protection status (Endangered). From our data previously presented(see above) and cross border trade from Malaysia Borneo to Indonesian Borneo, sometimes as many as 4000 individuals per month, this indicates extreme decimation in Indonesian populations and trappers are targeting individuals and populations in other forests.

    Without serious action and protection, we believe this species will become the next Straw-headed Bulbul (which we also strongly petition for CR rather than E).

  8. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Final decisions were made by BirdLife for this species on 1st November, and the recommended categorisation put forward to IUCN was as described in the preliminary decision.

    Final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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