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Environment, Nature, Wildlife

Arunachal receives Rs 1588.732 crore CAMPA fund from Centre

Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday received an amount of Rs 1588.72 crore under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which is a major boost towards promoting afforestation and achieving green objectives.

Tripura and Mizoram received funds of Rs 183.65 crore and Rs 212.98 crore under CAMPA.

In total, union minister of environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javadekar handed over Rs. 47,436 crore of CAMPA fund to various States in the presence of Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo.

The fund shall be utilized as per the provisions of the Compensatory (Afforestation) Fund (CAF) Act and CAF Rules.

Speaking at the meeting, Union Environment Minister Javadekar said, “The State budget for forests shall remain unaffected, and the fund being transferred would be in addition to the State Budget.”

“It is expected that all States will utilize this fund towards forestry activities to achieve the objectives of the Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) of increasing its forest and tree cover, which will create an additional carbon sink equivalent to 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030,” said Javadekar.

The Environment Minister further emphasized that CAMPA funds cannot be used for payment of salary, travelling allowances, medical expenses, among other expenses.

Javadekar highlighted the efforts of the government towards preserving and improving the forest wealth and ecological security of the country.

He said important activities on which the fund will be utilised will be for the Compensatory Afforestation, Catchment Area Treatment, Wildlife Management, Assisted Natural Regeneration and Forest Fire Prevention and Control Operations and others.

Besides, the other activities include soil and moisture conservation works in the forest, Improvement of Wildlife Habitat, Management of Biological Diversity and Biological Resources, Research in Forestry and Monitoring of CAMPA works.

Animals, Sc. & Environment, Wildlife

For the first time, a rare rhino was born by artificial insemination at the Miami zoo

For the first time a rare rhino was born thanks to artificial insemination. The Indian rhino mother Akuti gave birth to a healthy young rhino at the Miami Zoo last Tuesday. It is the first Indian rhino born by artificial insemination.

The little rhino, whose gender is still unknown, was born at half past twelve in the afternoon and is the first little one of Akuti, a seven-year-old single-horned Indian rhino. The father is Suru, an eighteen-year-old Indian rhino. Both mother and baby are doing well. Both still have to be examined by a veterinary team which is only done when the staff consider it safe to separate the little one from his very protective mother for a few minutes, according to a spokesperson for the zoo.

No natural fertilization

Akuti (meaning “princess” in Hindi) did not get pregnant, despite several attempts at natural fertilization. That is why a team of experts was brought to the Miami zoo that started the artificial insemination process in January last year.

As soon as it became clear that Akuti was indeed pregnant, the rhino was trained to accept ultrasound. In this way the employees could keep a close eye on the growth and birth of the young.

Indian rhinos are on average between 15 and 16 months pregnant and the mothers can give birth to a calf once every two or three years. Akuti and her baby cannot yet be seen in public at the zoo, that only happens when the two are used to each other.

© Zoo Miami/Ron Magill

The Indian rhino is very popular among poachers because of its horn. There are approximately 3500 Indian rhinos in the world, according to the International Rhino Foundation. The Miami zoo is therefore very happy with the birth of the baby rhino: “This very rare birth is not only significant for Zoo Miami, it is incredibly important to the international efforts to maintain a healthy population under human care of this highly vulnerable species throughout the world.”

It is not the first time that an endangered species is artificially fertilized. Earlier, an elephant, a crocodile and a giant panda became pregnant via this route.

Environment, Wildlife

SC Bans Mining Along Kaziranga National Park; No Construction In Nine Animal Corridors


In a major boost to conservation of wildlife in this UNESCO world heritage site, the Supreme Court has banned mining and related activities along the Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve (KNP) and in the catchment area of the rivers/streams and rivulets which originate in the Karbi Anglong Hill ranges and flow into the park. A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta ordered that “that all kind of mining and related activities along the Kaziranga National Park area and in the entire catchment area of rivers/streams and rivulets originating in Karbi Anglong Hill ranges and flowing into Kaziranga National Park, including Tiger Reserve are restrained. Also Read – Open Letter To The Bar Council Of India “No new construction shall be permitted on private lands which form part of the nine identified animal corridors”. The bench has directed the Director General of Police, Assam, and the Superintendent of Police concerned to ensure that no illegal mining takes place in the area and no transportation of illegally-mined material take place from Karbi Anglong Hills. Also Read – Some Questions In The Wake Of A Matter Of Great Public Importance The order of the court came in an application moved by environment activist Rohit Choudhury who has been making effort towards conserving wildlife in KNP, which is home to the largest population of one-horned rhinoceros, and the regions around it. As part of his application, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) published a report on March 1 recommending a ban on all mining activities and ban on all constructions in nine animal corridors. The report was taken cognizance of by the apex court. It is to be noted that recently the court had refused to stay the demolition of a wall that had come up in an elephant corridor as part of a township project of miniratna PSU Numaligarh Refinery. The same was also ordered to be demolished after Choudhury moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and shared the plight of pachyderms banging head against the wall to reach their source of water and food. The legal battle against mining in the region saw Choudhury facing death threats and social boycott. However, the CEC report and the apex court order put the onus on the government machinery to act. Meanwhile, the Assam government has sought three weeks to respond to the CEC report. (Source: Livelaw)

Environment, Wildlife

How Native American tribes are bringing back the bison from brink of extinction

by Jeremy Hance

On 5,000 hectares of unploughed prairie in north-eastern Montana, hundreds of wild bison roam once again. But this herd is not in a national park or a protected sanctuary – they are on tribal lands. Belonging to the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation, the 340 bison is the largest conservation herd in the ongoing bison restoration efforts by North America’s Indigenous people.

The bison – or as Native Americans call them, buffalo – are not just “sustenance,” according to Leroy Little Bear, a professor at the University of Lethbridge and a leader in the bison restoration efforts with the Blood Tribe. The continent’s largest land mammal plays a major role in the spiritual and cultural lives of numerous Native American tribes, an “integrated relationship,” he said.

“If you are Christian and you don’t see any crosses out there, or you don’t have your corner church … there’s no external connection, [no] symbolic iconic notion that strengthens and nurtures those beliefs,” said Little Bear. “So it goes with the buffalo.”

Only a couple of hundred years ago, 20 million to 30 million bison lived in vast thundering herds across North America. They were leftover relics of the Pleistocene and one of the few large mammals to survive the Ice Age extinction.

Return of the bison: herd makes surprising comeback on Dutch coast

Bison in the snow
 Bison in the snow Photograph: Neal Herbert/Yellowstone NPS

But less than 400 years after Columbus’ direful voyage, white settlers pushed their way west into Native American territory in so-called manifest destiny. And the US government made the fateful decision to cripple the Native Americans through whatever means necessary. One of these was the bison: the government viewed slaughtering the great herds en-masse as a way to starve and devastate Native American tribes.Advertisement

Within just decades, the bison went from numbering tens of millions to within a hair’s breadth of extinction. “Fort Peck was the first to stand up and say we want to help. We want to restore these important bison back to their historic Great Plains home,” said Jonathan Proctor, Rockies and Plains program director with NGO Defenders of Wildlife, who has worked with the tribes for years to bring the bison back.

To do so, the tribe looked to Yellowstone’s bison herd. After the slaughter of the 19th century, 23 bison survived in a remote valley in Yellowstone. Today, the herd is 4,000 strong and is seen as a vital population because it has never been domesticated or interbred with cattle, maintaining genetic purity. While so-called pure genetics of the bison are often important to scientists and conservationists, Kelly Stoner – who heads the bison program at the Wildlife Conservation Society – said the issue is more complicated among tribal groups.

Yellowstone National Park Bison Herd grazing as a storm rolls in
 Yellowstone National Park Bison Herd grazing as a storm rolls in Photograph: Jacob W Frank/Yellowstone NPS

“You’ll find that amongst Native Americans … the predominant attitude is ‘if it looks like a buffalo and smells like a buffalo, it’s a buffalo’. The deep, personal relationship between Native Americans and buffalo exists, and is relevant and important, whether or not a particular animal has 8% cattle genes or not,” she explained.

Bringing back bison – and more tales of animal hope

Still, in 2007, Fort Peck Reservation eyed Yellowstone’s herd as a potential source to build a cultural herd. Fort Peck, and many other tribes, already had a commercial herd – used for economic purposes – but now they wanted to build a second herd with conservation in mind.

But getting bison from Yellowstone national park would prove far harder than Fort Peck initially thought. Although pure bred, Yellowstone bison carry the disease brucellosis. The Yellowstone bison originally contracted the disease from cattle in the early 20th century and now ranchers and state officials fear a return. Although scientists have never recorded brucellosis jumping from bison to cattle, it is theoretically possible according to lab research.

Crisis in our national parks: how tourists are loving nature to death

“It’s really difficult [to pass]. It’s passed through the placenta,” explained Proctor. “You’d have to have cattle mix with bison in the spring when the bison would potentially abort their calf because of brucellosis and the cattle would have to lick [the aborted placenta]. It’s not likely.”

Still, cattle ranchers so fear the disease that they have pushed for hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand, bison to be slaughtered every year in Yellowstone national park to keep the animals from roaming outside the park boundaries and potentially mixing with cattle. Yellowstone elk also carry the disease, but are spared slaughter since they are seen as less of a risk.

The brucellosis panic almost stopped Fort Peck from ever getting Yellowstone bison. Over six years, the tribes had to battle anti-bison legislation from the Montana congress and legal battles. The case went all the way to Montana supreme court, which the tribes won unanimously.

“The biggest roadblock is the politics in Montana,” said Robert Magnan, director of the Fort Peck tribes’ fish and game department and the buffalo program. “They don’t understand what we’re trying to do out here.”

TheTatanke Oyate, Buffalo Nation, Singers from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, sing a welcoming song for bison arriving from Yellowstone National Park on Monday, March 19, 2012. Sixty-four bison from Yellowstone National Park were shipped to northeast Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation on Monday
 TheTatanke Oyate, Buffalo Nation, Singers from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, sing a welcoming song for bison arriving from Yellowstone National Park on Monday, March 19, 2012. Sixty-four bison from Yellowstone National Park were shipped to northeast Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation on Monday Photograph: Richard Peterson/AP

The first Yellowstone bison finally arrived in 2012: around 60 animals in all. “There was a huge celebration; many, many people from the community came out,” said Proctor. “It was just thrilling to see.”

Two years after their arrival, Magnan said that the bison had already begun to rejuvenate the land.

“We’ve seen the ecosystem revive. Grassland birds have returned, native grasses are thriving. We welcome and look forward to the buffalos’ continued benefits to our tribal lands.”

Since then, several more deliveries have been made and the Fort Peck herd – at 340 – is among the top 10 conservation herds in the US.

But the work has only begun. In 2014, two years after the bison came to Fort Peck, 13 tribal nations – representing eight reservations both in the US and Canada – signed a ‘Buffalo Treaty’. The treaty outlined the importance of bringing back free-roaming bison to both the US and Canada. “We used to always have an empty chair for the buffalo, for the spirit of the buffalo [at the dialogues], in our talking circles,” said Little Bear, who facilitated the dialogues. “It’s hard to explain but the buffalo was basically asking us, ‘you know, I’ve been gone for 150 years, why do you want me to come back?’”

A herd roam on the Fort Peck Reservation near Poplar, Montana
 A herd roam on the Fort Peck Reservation near Poplar, Montana Photograph: Matthew Brown/AP

By the end of the dialogues, the tribes agreed why. “The concern was the young people hear only stories, they hear the songs, they see the ceremonies, but they don’t see the buffalo out there,” added Little Bear.

Return of the bison: new American national symbol tells story of strife

The treaty is already making good. Last year, Blackfeet Reservation, also in Montana, received 89 genetically pure bison from Elk Island in Canada. Although the Blackfeet’s Iinnii Initiative – their name for buffalo – is the youngest, it’s also the most ambitious.Advertisement

The tribe is negotiating with state officials to allow these bison, which are free of brucellosis, to range freely into Glacier national park and even, hopefully, one day as north as Waterton Lakes national park and Blood Tribe Reservation Canada – which would make it the first international bison herd in over a century.

Tribes sign the treaty to commit to bison repopulation and conservation in Polson, Montana
 Tribes sign the treaty to commit to bison repopulation and conservation in Polson, Montana Photograph: Dennis Jorgensen/WWF

Little Bear said they are also working with the Y2Y Initiative, which aims to create a massive wildlife corridor from Yellowstone to the Yukon for wildlife such as bears and wolves.

“We talked to the Y2Y people and said ‘hey, what about buffalo?’ And [they said], ‘we never thought about it but we can include buffalo.’” This year, wild bison returned to Banff national park after being gone over 100 years. Little Bear said the tribe’s Buffalo Treaty acted as a “catalyst” for the re-wilding in Canada’s first park.

“Tribes of the northern plains are the lead in wild bison restoration right now,” Proctor said. In 50 years’ time, the conservation community hopes to have at least 10 bison herds that number 1,000 animals – the minimum, he said, needed for the bison to fulfil their ecological role (currently only Yellowstone has a herd of more than 1,000 animals).

On top of that, Proctor hopes there will be a few herds of more than 10,000 animals, a herd size which hasn’t been seen since the mass extermination in the 19th century.

A coyote and bison in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone national park.
 A coyote and bison in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone national park. Photograph: Sumiko Scott/Getty Images

“Well never see bison roaming the entire Great Plains again,” said Proctor. “We’ll never see 20 million to 30 million bison again. No one is trying to go back in time. We’re trying to go forward. We’re trying to restore this important animal where we can, where people want them, and to the level where they will help restore the natural balance.”

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For any of this to happen, Native American tribes will be key. They have the land and the desire to bring back the continent’s largest land mammal. And it’s not just bison, Proctor said. They have been instrumental in conserving wolves, grizzly bears, swift foxes and black-footed ferrets among other species.

Magnan said Fort Peck’s “dream” is to have 2,500 buffalo in their conservation herd running on more than 40,000 hectares. Already the tribe has passed a resolution to purchase more land.

“It’s amazing … with limited budgets and widespread poverty, [Native American tribes] are the leader in wildlife restoration when compared to the state wildlife agency,” he said. “In reality, it was not the buffalo that left us, it was us that left the buffalo. So we have to do something.”

Environment, Wildlife

Maneka Gandhi tells Army to act against elephant deaths in Assam, remove ‘dreadful spikes’

New Delhi: Days after a bed of six-inch long metal spikes installed by the Indian Army in Assam allegedly claimed the life of a male elephant, union minister Maneka Gandhi took up the issue with Army Chief Bipin Rawat and asked him to immediately remove the deadly spikes.
The spikes, laid down by the Army to prevent elephants around the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in Guwahati from entering the military installation adjacent to it, have allegedly caused at least two elephant deaths, and left several injured.
Taking strong exception to the Army’s installation of what she called “the dreadful spikes”, Maneka said, “Whoever in the Army has done this needs to be pulled up…The Army has no business of putting these lethal spikes in the middle of a forest.
“I have spoken to the commander-in-chief, and he told me he has no knowledge of this, and will take immediate action,” she told ThePrint Friday.
“We have less than 15,000 elephants left in this country, are we going to kill them all?” she said.
According to the 2017 census of elephants, there are 27,312 elephants in the country, which account for 55 per cent of the total elephant population in the world.
Gandhi not the only one to outrage
A month before the male elephant was found dead on 4 March — it reportedly succumbed to septicaemia caused by a wound in the leg — the forest department had warned the Army against the “cruel” measure, asking it to remove the spikes, which would endanger the lives of the “innocent animals”.
In a letter written on 28 December — a day after another elephant was injured — District Forest Officer (DFO), Pradipta Baruah said, “This type of cruel effort to keep the elephants at bay is definitely going to defeat the very spirit of wildlife protection and preservation.
“You are, therefore, requested to do away with this type of detrimental measures… and evolve to take recourse to a more compassionate method in tandem with the wildlife division in the true spirits of protecting the wildlife.”
According to the post-mortem report of the elephant, it had punctured wounds on its right hind leg and foreleg which officials in the forest department believe were caused due to the spikes.
“Several elephants have been injured in this area due to these spikes, and we have constantly maintained that the Army should remove them, but nothing has been done till now,” an official in the Guwahati wildlife division told ThePrint.
“The way to deal with man-animal conflict is not to put the lives of animals in jeopardy,” the official said.
Long-drawn problem in Assam
While man-animal conflict is a raging issue across several parts of the country, it is particularly stark in Assam, where 249 elephants and 761 people have died since 2010 owing to the problem.
Poaching, train-related accidents, poisoning and electrocution have all contributed to the dwindling elephant population in the region.
Additionally, the shrinking natural habitat of elephants compels them to stray into human habitation, thereby increasing the incidents of conflict.
According to environment ministry data, in the last five years, nearly 500 elephants have died in the country due to unnatural factors.
Out of the 490 deaths recorded since 2013, more than half the deaths — 267 — have occurred due to electrocution, followed by poaching (92), rail accidents (72), revenge killings (36) and poisoning (23).

Environment, Wildlife

Wildflower suggests to build up bio fencing and water source near Army Cantonment

Wildflower Assam,  a  conservation and livelihood group of CCER, welcomes Army initiative to remove spike used as jumbo barrier in the Narengi Cantonment  in Narengi, Guwahati . According to a report published in the Assam Tribune, the Army authorities are in the process of removing the spiked barrier erected inside the Narangi cantonment to “keep away elephants” and the process is likely to be completed within a week’s time.

This was informed by top Army officers today during a meeting with forest officials. wildflower suggests to build up bio fencing and dig pond in the edge area of the cantonment. Wild elephant will use water sources and lessen elephant entry into the cantonment as well as depredation in the area. 

The forest team was led by the DFO of Guwahati Wildlife Division, while the Army side was headed by its station commander.

“The Army authorities conceded that the structure was not right and regretted its construction. They claimed that an earlier request by the forest authorities to remove it was also considered, but due to some communication gap it was delayed,” a forest official said.

“Now, they said they are in the process of removing it, and given the type of structure, it would take about a week’s time to remove it. After it is completed, the Army authorities agreed to take a team of forest officials to the site for verification,” the sources said.

Army sources said several other measures, most of which were suggested by the forest department, were being taken to keep away elephants from the cantonment. “We are planting trees and digging trenches as deterrents. The trenches are being built in such a manner that even if an elephant is trapped, it can be taken out easily,” the sources said.

The spiked barrier which had claimed lives of at least two elephants in the past one year and injured another had drawn sharp criticism. The barrier was basically aimed at securing the Army’s supply depot which is often raided by elephants in search of food.

At least three to four elephants virtually live permanently in and around the cantonment located in the vicinity of the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. Herds also keep frequenting the cantonment.


Number of Rhinos count up in Dudhwa

BAREILLY: The rhino census in Dudhwa National Park has shown that the animal count has increased from 32 in 2017 to 39 this year. The is the first census to be conducted by scientists from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) by adopting the genetic identification method to determine rhino numbers. The system involved extracting DNA cells from 89 dung samples provided by the forest department. This method is known as Rhino DNA Indexing System or RhODIS programme.

The previous census conducted by the forest department had used “head count” method.

Officials said RhODIS is a molecular approach for rhino forensics and population management as it will help in understanding genetic status of existing population for long-term conservation.

Deputy director of Dudhwa National Park, Mahavir Kaujlagi, said, “Through this programme, the identification and counting of greater one-horned rhinoceros was done. Also DNA repository of these 39 rhinos has been generated. The genetic analysis will also help in knowing probabilities of inbreeding among rhinos in future.”

Officials said DNA database of rhinos will help in dealing with poaching cases. Ramesh Pandey, field director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, said, “It is unique project. It will help in combating poaching by tracing back seized horns to their origin. There has been an instance when a case was cracked due to adoption of this method. After forest officials in Assam seized a horn of a rhino, they traced it to a rhino of Jaldapara National Park in West Bengal due to the DNA repository maintained by WII.”

Apart from Dudhwa National Park, the RhODIS programme has been adopted in Assam’s Manas National Park, Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and in West Bengal’s Gorumara National Park and Jaldapara National Park.

Observation on Roadkills in Dudhwa National Park

by Siddharth Edake

A series of re-alignments and inclusion of appropriate animal passages has already been suggested by a joint group but urgent efforts are required to execute the plans to save India’s dwindling wildlife.

This picture highlights roadkill of a Golden Jackal (Canis aureus) observed inside Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh. The metal road that lies on the Indo-Nepal border is about 26 km long from Dudhwa gate to Gauri Phanta (Last village on India’s side) and is open to vehicular traffic from approximately 6 am to 7 pm. The road is quite busy during the day with large transport trucks, tempos and buses crossing the International border from either side.

During our recent visit to Dudhwa, we observed a number of dead frogs, snakes and even mammals (Indian Palm Squirrel and Small Indian Civet) at dusk as we were returning from Dhangadhi (Major town in Nepal) after our work. Though the forest department has put barricades and has issued strict guidelines on speed limit, we didn’t see the commuters adhering to them. In fact, honking of bikes and overtaking of trucks on a single lane highway seemed a common sight.

A series of re-alignments and inclusion of appropriate animal passages has already been suggested by a joint group comprising the Uttar Pradesh State Forest Department, Public Works Department (PWD) and various conservation groups for the upcoming Indo-Nepal border road (also known as SSB road) within India. However, urgent efforts are required to execute the well-thought out plans to save India’s dwindling wildlif

Obituary, Wildlife

TV wildlife enthusiast Johnny Kingdom killed in digger accident

The 79-year-old who came to fame in A Year on Exmoor has died in his beloved Devon

Television wildlife film-maker Johnny Kingdom has died at the age of 79 following an accident on his land involving a digger. Kingdom, who specialised in his local area of Exmoor and north Devon and had appeared extensively on the BBC, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency services in a field near Wadham Cross in Knowstone, Devon, following reports confirmed by police that a digger had rolled over on Thursday night.

His family said in a statement: “Unfortunately a legend has been lost. Johnny would want you all to continue with his love for Exmoor as you all meant so much to him. “As the loving man himself would have said: ‘Farewell to all you lovely people’. RIP 23/02/39–06/09/18.”

His television agent, Hilary Knight, described him as one of the last true characters of rural Britain. “Johnny Kingdom embodied all the attributes that are associated with true countrymen,” Knight said. “Born and bred an Exmoor man through and through, he loved his Devon patch and all the flora and fauna within. He lit up our TV screens with his enthusiasm and passion.”

Last night’s TV: Johnny’s New Kingdom

Kingdom worked variously as a farmer, quarryman, forestry worker, gravedigger and poacher before he became a film-maker when he was lent a video camera following a tractor accident. He soon developed a passion for recording wildlife and was particularly well known for taking pictures of stags and badgers.

In 2006, the BBC broadcast a 10-part series about his life, Johnny Kingdom: A Year on Exmoor. The animal lover wrote an accompanying book, A Wild Life on Exmoor, for the series, which was followed by Bambi and Me and West Country Tales.

BBC Countryfile presenter Richard Taylor-Jones paid tribute to a “wonderful, magical” friend. “He taught me so much and reminded me why we all need nature in our lives and how to enjoy it in the best possible way,” Taylor-Jones said. “On our last day filming together, he gave me this feather from his hat. It still sits on my desk today as one of my most treasured possessions.”

Source: The Guardian



In protecting songbirds, Indonesia shows an ideal way

 by Basten Gokkon 

  • Songbird owners and breeders have denounced the Indonesian government’s recent decision to add hundreds of bird species to the national list of protected species.
  • Birdkeeping has long been a popular and highly lucrative pastime in the country, with deep cultural roots.
  • The government has sought to accommodate the owners’ concerns by insisting that enforcement of bans on capturing and trading in the newly protected species will not be applied retroactively.
  • It has also given owners and breeders a generous window in which to register their birds — an opportunity that conservation activists say could be exploited by people looking to stock up on wild-caught birds.

JAKARTA — Songbird owners in Indonesia are up in arms over the recent inclusion of hundreds of bird species in the national list of protected animals.

The owners plan to protest outside the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Central Jakarta on Aug. 14, according to the Indonesian Songbird Fan Club (FKMI), a coalition of owners’ groups.

The move comes in response to the ministry’s expansion of the list of protected species to 919, from 677 previously. The majority of the listed species, which are prohibited from being traded or hunted, are birds, at 562, including species typically caught and caged for the popular and highly lucrative songbird trade. These include the white-rumped shama (Kittacincla malabarica), greater green leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) and straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus).

“We call for the support and participation of all songbird fans, including bird sellers who have been immediately impacted [by the updated regulation],” the head of the songbird owners’ group Indo Jaya Nusantara, who is identified as Christ Murdoch, said in a statement on Omkicau, one of the biggest songbird enthusiast forums in Indonesia.

The FKMI has also taken its movement to Facebook and Twitter, where it is spreading the hashtag #TolakPermenLHK20, short for “Reject ministerial regulation No. 20.”

A greater green leafbird is spotted in south of Jakarta, Indonesia. Image by Melindra12/Wikimedia Commons.

The group says the ban on buying and selling commonly traded songbirds lacks scientific and cultural bases. It says several species included in the update are currently bred on a large scale, and are far from endangered.

Designating these species as off-limits could put captive-breeding facilities for songbirds out of business, said a man identified as Bang Boy who is the head of BnR, another songbird owners’ group. This new policy, he said as quoted by local media, “has created worry among vendors, captive-bird breeders and songbird fans.”

Birdkeeping is a popular pastime in Indonesia, particularly among the Javanese, in large part because it signifies status and is thought to promote peace of mind. Songbirds are also prized for use in contests, which have spawned thriving networks of clubs, online forums and blogs.

The hobby has grown popular beyond Java, thanks largely to the government’s transmigration program that relocated residents of the densely populated island to other parts of the country. That allowed Javanese customs like birdkeeping to take root in those regions.

But Indonesia is also home to the largest number of threatened bird species in Asia, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group.

Previous studies on the bird trade have highlighted urban markets in Java and Sumatra. A 2005 report estimated that an average of 614,180 native songbirds were trapped and traded annually throughout the two islands.

Bird markets in large cities such as Jakarta are also hotspots for the trade, legal and illegal, in other wildlife species. Jakarta’s Pramuka Market, in particular, is a notorious hub for the illegal wildlife trade. In 2016, TRAFFIC carried a comprehensive survey at the market where the group’s researchers, posing as buyers, counted 87 shops selling a total of 16,160 birds comprising 180 different species.

The white-rumped shama is now a protected songbird species in Indonesia. Image by Koshy Koshy/Flickr.

The songbird owners say their biggest concern is the question of whether the new policy renders illegal their ownership of birds not previously listed as protected.

Indonesia’s conservation act prescribes jail sentences of up to five years and/or fines of up to 100 million rupiah ($6,800) for trading in, keeping, distributing or killing a protected species.

The environment ministry, however, has said the updated list will not be enforced retroactively.

“It’s not true that people who already own or captive-breed [newly protected] birds like white-rumped shama, straw-headed bulbul and such will be charged [under the revised list],” Wiratno, the ministry’s director general for conservation, said in a statement.

“It’s also not true that captive breeding of birds is now prohibited,” he added. “What we want to do, instead, is to manage it and get everything in order so that we can properly document each species’ population in its natural habitat.”

A 1999 government regulation on the natural resource management allows registered facilities to catch a protected species in the wild for captive-breeding purposes and to sell the offspring, which are not designated as protected species. For their part, the facilities must release 10 percent of their captive-born stock back into the wild as part of ex-situ conservation efforts, i.e. outside the species’ native habitat.

“We need to realize that pet ownership must also guarantee the population of songbirds in the wild,” Wiratno said. “We are calling all stakeholders to support in-situ conservation of bird species with the help of ex-situ conservation.”

He added that his office would discuss the ongoing concerns with the songbird owners’ groups.

The ministry has also given owners and breeders of newly protected species time to register with local-level government conservation agencies, known as BKSDAs. During this grace period, they will be required to show ownership documents and captive-breeding permits, as well as have their animals tagged.

“We are establishing posts at every provincial BKSDA to collect data of people who own these newly protected bird species,” Wiratno said. “It’s free and we won’t make the process difficult. It’s going to be easier because we want valid data. I think there are millions of songbird fans in the country.”

The chattering lory is now a protected songbird species in Indonesia. Image by Raphaël Anjou/Flickr.

Wildlife conservation activists have welcomed the expanded list as a major step forward in the protection of Indonesia’s threatened animals and plants, even though enforcement of the policy isn’t retroactive.

However, they have warned of a potential surge in the illegal trade by unscrupulous parties trying to obtain newly protected species and get them registered during the grace period.

“The most challenging task will be to prove whether an animal has been captured before or after the new list came out,” Sunarto, a wildlife ecologist at WWF-Indonesia, told Mongabay. “Another challenge is whether people will voluntarily come forward to the BKSDA and report their ownership of a protected species.”

Sunarto called on the environment ministry to actively raise public awareness about the new list of protected species.

Sofi Mardiah, a wildlife policy program manager at Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia, who was involved in discussions with the environment ministry about the grace period, said capturing newly protected species from the wild after the publication of the updated list would constitute a violation of the conservation act.

“The transition period is for those who already own these species before the decree came into effect,” she said.

Sofi added the grace period could start as soon as next week and conclude by the end of the year. “If it runs for too long, then it’s going to confuse people,” she said.

Sofi also said the data collection effort during this period would allow the establishment of a comprehensive, publicly accessible catalogue of pet owners and captive-breeding facilities.

“Legal ownership of protected species often falls into a gray area. This is an opportunity to improve the system and have complete data on domestic sales and transactions [from captive breeders], so monitoring them can be easy,” she said.

Another anticipated outcome from the imposition of the updated list is whether some owners will feel compelled to turn in their now protected animals to the authorities.

“But it’s up to the owners whether they decide to keep or hand over their animals,” Sofi said. “If they decide to hand them over to the authorities, then there are procedures in place to rehabilitate the animal before it gets released back to the wild.”

A straw-headed bulbul is spotted at a bird park in western Java, Indonesia. Image by Bernard Dupont/Wikimedia Commons.

Source: Mongabay