Chester Zoo is launching a massive public campaign to save critically endangered Indonesian songbirds from near certain, widespread extinction.
Millions of songbirds are captured illegally in Indonesian forests every year.
The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest international crime in the world, worth $19bn annually, with South East Asian songbirds among the worst affected but least publicised victims.
Indonesian forests - which were once filled with the sounds of countless different bird species - are now falling silent.
Meanwhile, beautiful birds are being sold in markets as part of the illegal wildlife trade. They are then kept in small cages as status symbols and used in singing competitions. As the birds become rarer, their value increases, creating a growing desire to capture them.
Hundreds of species of songbirds are facing an even more uncertain future than more high profile threatened species such as rhinos, pandas and elephants.
Now, the UK’s most popular zoo has launched an urgent public campaign to break the silence.
Chester Zoo, the UK’s most visited tourist attraction outside London, hopes to galvanise widespread public support, raise vital funds to help conservation efforts and increase awareness of the urgent need for action.
Chester’s bird keepers have already had success with vital breeding programmes for critically endangered species such as the Javan green magpie and the Bali staling (myna).
Conservationists at the zoo also work closely with field partners in Indonesia at the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre, to breed and protect populations of some of the most threatened species.
As part of the major new Sing For Songbirds campaign the zoo’s Safari Ranger outreach team are working directly with schools in the UK and Indonesia. The campaign will increase awareness of the critical situation, providing teachers with a range of discovery, learning and fundraising resources to help them act for songbirds in the UK and Indonesia.
‘Sing For Songbirds’, a new single written and performed by musician Ashley Fayth, is available to buy on iTunes and Google Play. All proceeds from sales of the song go towards the fight to save songbirds.
Andrew Owen, curator of birds at Chester Zoo, said: “Wildlife crime is affecting a range of high profile species, from rhinos to elephants, but the devastating impact on songbirds is slipping under the radar. The forests in Indonesia are now so silent but the markets are full of the sounds of caged birds - most of them in awful condition. Birds are often bought in the same way we buy flowers – something beautiful to admire for a few days until they wilt away and die.
“We won’t stand back and let these beautiful birds disappear from our planet and we desperately need your help. It’s now or never. It’s time to act for songbirds.
“It will be incredibly hard to change the culture of people keeping songbirds in small cages but with more education, awareness and protection of suitable secure habitat, by conservationists and our brilliant Indonesian partners, we have a chance to save these species from extinction. We must act now.”
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