TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The hunting of rare birds is on the increase. Removing them from the list of protected species is a crime against the planet.
THE country is short of money, but environmental protection should not be sold off to fill the coffers. The decision two years ago by Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya to remove five types of birds threatened with extinction from the list of protected species has long been condemned. Although it was claimed this was to end the practice of illegal hunting, their removal has only increased it. Now the hunters are not only after these five types of bird, but also other wildlife under threat of extinction.
At the time, Minister Siti's reasoning was the five bird species - the yellow-crowned bulbul, the Asian pied starling, the white-rumped shama, the Arafura shrike thrush and the Sangihe shrikethrush - were widely bred for competitions. Given their high economic value, the government's excuse was that the population of these rare songbirds was abundant. The problem is that there has been no evidence that their populations have remained stable, yet alone risen.
A number of investigations have proven just the opposite. According to data from BirdLife International 2020 for example, there were only between one and 49 Asian pied starlings living in the forests of Java. Meanwhile, only between 600 and 1,700 yellow-crowned bulbuls remain in the world. In Java, it is possible they are already extinct.
An investigation by Tempo and the Agriculture Quarantine Agency in a number of locations found widespread smuggling of rare and unprotected birds. There was no evidence of the large-scale breeding claimed by the environment ministry. The high demand has led to the market value of these songbirds increasing. On top of this, there is the belief among collectors that songbirds taken from the wild are far more melodious than those bred in captivity.
Allowing people to keep birds using the excuse that it is a hobby or that it increases the economic value is a primitive way of protecting wild animals. Their habitat is in the wild, not in cages. Their function is far more important than simply being home ornaments.
Wild animals play a key role in balancing the ecosystem. If the number of birds falls, restoration of nature through the spreading of seeds from trees by birds will also decline. Eventually, biodiversity will be under threat.
This biodiversity is needed by humanity and the planet. The lack of wildlife, with its natural behavior, damages forests. Forests with fewer trees mean less production of oxygen and less absorption of carbon dioxide. The Rp4 trillion annual trade in birds is meaningless when compared with the price that we will have to pay if the earth's ecosystem is ruined.
As well as upholding the law against those who smuggle protected wild animals, the government should not bow down to lobbying from bird collectors using economic excuses. Last year the United Nations warned that in the last 40 years, 1 million species, including birds, have disappeared from the earth.
It is time the government drew up policy based on data at this time of the threat of global warming. We owe a debt to future generations: we must preserve wildlife animals so that they will not only know them from museums and books
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