The Birds of Bali

The Indonesian island famous with tourists for its beaches, yoga retreats, and waterfalls is currently under threat from one of the island’s active volcano, Mount Agung. While the volcano has not erupted in over 50 years, experts now say that eruption is imminent and the government has evacuated a 12km radius around the volcano.

But what does all of this have to do with birds? Well, the BBC just released a short video on it’s Facebook about the pets people brought with them out of the evacuation zone. Probably meant to be a human interest fluff piece, it actually highlights a real problem with the pet trade in Indonesia.

The first man to appear in the clip talked about how he brought 8 birds with him, and while he brought them probably because he cares for his pets, it’s important to remember that these birds were almost certainly removed from their natural habitat to supply the ever-growing demand for pet song-birds in Indonesia.

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A fifth of all Indonesian households keep birds as pets, most often more than one bird, and more often still, in inadequate housing. There are estimated at over 15 bird species  in Indonesia at risk of imminent extinction due to over-harvesting to supply some of the largest bird markets in the world (a three day survey at a market in Jakarta showed 19,036 birds of 206 species being sold).

Not only song-birds are at risk. A 2017 study showed a drastic increase in the trade of owl species in Indonesia, directly linked with the popularity of the famous book and movie franchise, Harry Potter.

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So. while we may acknowledge the goodness behind the intent of a man bringing his birds with him as he evacuated, we must also remember that those wild-caught birds should not have been there to begin with. If Indonesia was willing to bring into effect some sort of animal cruelty laws, or enforce their wild-bird harvesting limits, then maybe there wouldn’t potentially be thousands of birds left in small cages to die by pyroclastic surge (the deadly surge of heat and ash that often accompanies a volcanic eruption) when Mount Agung erupts.

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