26 Jul 2018

A new action plan to tackle illegal parrot trading in Indonesia

In North Maluku, Indonesia, traders are using more and more complex methods to trap and market parrots, and many species are now globally threatened with extinction. BirdLife Partner Burung Indonesia united national parks, conservation groups and police investigators to develop a plan of action.

These Chattering Lories were about to be shipped abroad when they were seized by law enforcement © Burung Indonesia
These Chattering Lories were about to be shipped abroad when they were seized by law enforcement © Burung Indonesia
By Adi Widyanto (Burung Indonesia) & Anuj Jain (BirdLife International)

Parrots have always been a source of fascination for humans. Their vivid colour, their intelligence and their sociable, gregarious nature makes them highly sought-after companions – but when poachers plunder wild populations to fuel this demand, the results are often catastrophic. Nowhere is this devastation more apparent than the province of North Maluku in Indonesia, which encompasses the islands of Halmahera, Morotai, Bacan and Obi. Nine parrot species, three of which are found nowhere else, make their home here – but for how long?

The recent surge in poaching, for both internatinoal and domestic trade, has driven dramatic population declines in species already threatened with extinction. Trees that were once alive with sound and colour now stand empty. The biggest targets of this exploitation are the White Cockatoo Cacatua alba (Endangered), the Chattering Lory Lorius garralus (Vulnerable) - both endemic to the region - and the Eclectus Parrot Eclectus roratus. But why is this happening now? Many blame the inception of social media, which is now used extensively as an easy way to advertise the animals on the black market.

Something had to be done. And so, in April this year, Burung Indonesia (BirdLife Partner) organised a meeting of minds to explore the reasons driving people into the illegal wildlife trade, and to develop a solid action plan to end the practice. Held in the city of Ternate, the two-day conference united organisations from all walks of society: national parks, conservation NGOs, crime units and government environment departments. *


NGOs, government bodies and law enforcement agencies joined forces to develop an action plan © Burung Indonesia


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The meeting marked the inception of a new project developed by Burung Indonesia and BirdLife International: a holistic plan to conserve North Maluku’s parrots. The first step: to update old information. In 2008  - 2009, Burung Indonesia conducted a socio-economic assessment of major villages in North Maluku and mapped out the major threats to endemic parrots across the area. The investigations revealed that White Cockatoo populations had decreased sharply from the year 1992 to 2009. Habitat destruction constituted a significant threat to the birds, but poaching for illegal trade was continues to be the main cause of population decline.

Since then, no region-wide population study of White Cockatoos have been conducted. This new project intends to update a decade-old database of current parrot populations and provide crucial baseline figures on parrot trapping and trade in North Maluku. This will involve working closely with the government agencies and other stakeholders, including local communities.   


Community education and outreach is a key part of the action plan © Burung Indonesia


An important part of this will be to build on existing collaborations. Burung Indonesia has already developed an ongoing technical cooperation with the two government agencies - the Aketajawe Lolobata National Park and the Nature Conservation Agency of Maluku - to conserve the high-biodiversity areas which these areas manage. The cooperation engages communities and raises environmental awareness in order to change behaviour in the long term. The aim is to develop sustainable alternative livelihoods for poachers who are often driven to the practice through poverty, as well as to research and monitor populations of key species.

In order to end poaching and illegal trade once and for all, several new actions were agreed upon during the meeting. Firstly, the participants agreed to build a shared database containing records of wildlife crime, and to undertake a rigorous population study of parrots throughout the region. Participants also agreed to integrate parrot habitat management techniques into their work, both inside and outside conservation areas. Another important comclusion was the need to increase community knowledge and empower communities through the development of sustainable livelihoods. Above all, the meeting highlighted the importance of working together to encourage legal protection for parrots, share data and information and foster and a joined-together, coordinated approach to habitat protection and law enforcement.

* Three government agencies, the Aketajawe Lolobata National Park, the Nature Conservation Agency of Maluku, and the Forestry and Environmental Protection and Law Enforcement Agency of Maluku Papua, were present and took part in the planned actions. Other government and non-government agencies including the Department of Environment West Halmahera, Tidore Production Forest Management Unit, Special Criminal Investigation Police North Maluku, Lanal Navy North Maluku, Khairun University, University of Halmahera, AMAN North Maluku, Wildlife Conservation Society and PROFAUNA North Maluku were also present.


Workshop participants gather for a group photo © Burung Indonesia