Indonesia's yellow-crested cockatoo population threatened

Markus Makur The Jakarta Post 30 Apr 17;

The populations of the yellowcrested cockatoo on several islands are in critical danger due to massive exploitation, researchers say.

Anna Reuleaux from Manchester Metropolitan University said recently that she had been conducting research and compiling population data.

According to the data, there are around 200 birds on Sulawesi, 18 birds on Masalembo, 107 birds on Sumbawa, 40 birds on Flores, 70 birds on Rinca, 218 birds on Komodo, 258 birds on Alor and 288 birds on Pantar.

Approximately 2,000 birds still exist on Sumba and 200 to 300 birds on Timor and Timor Leste. On Tanahjampea, it is estimated that there are still 15 birds and there are eight birds on Tukangbesi.

Reuleaux conducted this research for conservation purposes, including to study the breeding of the birds, so that she could provide recommendations for stakeholders in Indonesia on how to preserve the species.

“I have been conducting research about the breeding of yellow-crested cockatoos on several islands since August last year and will continue until July next year,” the Germany native said.

She has been researching on Flores, starting from West Manggarai in Golomori, Rinca and Komodo and went further to Adonara and Alor. She also went to Sulawesi and Java.

“I traveled in East Nusa Tenggara for three months to Sumba, Flores, Alor, Timor and Rote. This is a conservation effort for Indonesian endemic birds, together with Burung Indonesia and the Bogor Agriculture Institute.”

Reuleaux explained that the yellow-Crested cockatoo is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the highest category of threat, “critically endangered,” due entirely to its massive exploitation as a cage bird. Seven subspecies are distributed in and just outside Wallacea, although the Sumba subspecies, known as the citron-crested Cockatoo, to aviculturists is probably a separate species. The population status of each of these subspecies is believed to be very serious.

Reuleaux said this research aimed to conduct extensive surveys of remaining cockatoo populations across its entire range, to produce accurate estimations of local population sizes and to determine their ecological and management requirement.

It is also intended to identify areas, which have or could have the right conditions to be local sites for future management interventions or re-introductions, and to generate in-depth information on the ecology of the citron-crested cockatoo on Sumba and possibly another subspecies in order to inform management practices for all populations. The research would also provide training and qualifications for one European and one Indonesian researcher in order to build capacity for cockatoo research and conservation.

The research is sponsored by Zoologishe Gesellschaff fur Arten-Und Biotopschute (ZGAP Germany) and Loro Porgue Fundacion in Spain.

She explained that the previous research, including in 1993, found there were 6,000 birds. However in 1994, there were cases of illegal trade of the species. Since then, the population has continued to dwindle more and more each year.

“We can find this bird in East Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi and East Java. People are interested in this bird because of its unique yellow crest.”

The outcome of the project will be conservation relevant information on the size of remaining cockatoo populations, identification of new populations and explanations of why some areas retain cockatoo populations and others do not.

Romi Lungga Dangolimu, a field researcher from the Lembaga Burung Indonesia (Indonesian Bird Institute) on Sumba, who accompanied the German researcher, said the population of the bird on the island was quite good.

In 2000, there was a massive hunting of this bird. Then in 2013, Burung Indonesia stepped in to raise awareness to protect the endemic species.

He explained that the awareness program from Burung Indonesia had shown good results, with local people establishing groups to campaign about the protection of the species.

“Overall, there is no more yellow-crested cockatoo hunting on Sumba, although some people still attempted to set up traps in trees to catch the birds. But thanks to the monitoring groups, their attempts failed. The groups removed the traps and cleaned up the trees from the glue.”

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