Throughout Indonesia millions of birds are kept in captivity, a tradition deeply embedded in Indonesian culture.

The tradition of keeping caged birds originally concerned just a handful of species favoured for their ability to sing. The capture of wild songbirds for this tradition is unsustainable and now encompasses all birds, irrelevant of colour, song, size and most importantly conservation status. The Javan Green Magpie for example has been driven to the brink of extinction by the bird trade and is now one of the world’s most endangered birds, with fewer than 100 individuals remaining in the wild.

To help combat this crisis, we are focusing our work on the critically endangered Javan green magpie, black-winged myna, Bali myna and Sumatran laughingthrush.

For both the Javan green magpie and black winged starling on Java, their future relies on conservation breeding. With numbers in the wild critically low we are working alongside the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre (CBBC) as a major partner, establishing viable zoo populations of these birds and developing long term strategies for their survival and reintroduction in the wild.

With fewer than 100 individuals thought to be left in the wild, there is a very real possibility of the Javan green magpie going extinct. Five years ago, nine birds were rescued from markets and traders to set up the breeding programme and the first bird was bred in 2013. There are now 60 magpies held in five institutions (two in Indonesia: Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre and Taman Safari wildlife park) and three in Europe (Chester Zoo, Jersey Zoo, and Prague Zoo).

Following successful breeding of the black winged myna at the centre, trial releases have taken place. Exploratory work is now underway to identify new, secure release sites for the birds. With the bird trade in Indonesia still rife, the security of release sites is of major importance and the development of these is ongoing.

In 2015, six pairs of Javan green magpies and five pairs of Sumatran laughingthrush were flown from Java to Chester to establish a conservation breeding and insurance population for the species in Europe, before the birds vanish in the wild for ever.

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