Indonesia has a long history of keeping birds as pets, but now it’s driving many species to the brink. By Rachael Bale Indonesians on the island of Java have an old saying: A man is considered to be a real man if he has a house, a wife, a horse, a keris (dagger), and a bird. The sprawling island nation is home to more than 1,600 species of birds, more than almost any other country in the world. It’s also home to the greatest number of species that are threatened by the bird trade. Now a new study highlights just how severe a threat the pet trade is to Indonesia’s birds. The study, released Wednesday, has identified 13 species and another 14 subspecies that are at risk of extinction because of the pet trade. “The number one thing I want people to know is that the bird trade is an incredibly urgent issue that needs addressing,” said Chris Shepherd, one of the study’s authors and the Southeast Asian regional director for TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring organization. “It is a conservation crisis that is being ignored.”
National Geographic and partners have declared 2018 the Year of the Bird. Why? They help the environment, but they also help our souls. In 2018 we’ll explore the wonder of birds, and why we can’t live without them. By: Jonathan Franzen For most of my life, I didn’t pay attention to birds. Only in my 40s did I become a person whose heart lifts whenever he hears a grosbeak singing or a towhee calling and who hurries out to see a golden plover that’s been reported in the neighborhood, just because it’s a beautiful bird, with truly golden plumage, and has flown all the way from Alaska. When someone asks me why birds are so important to me, all I can do is sigh and shake my head, as if I’ve been asked to explain why I love my brothers. And yet the question is a fair one, worth considering in the centennial year of America’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Why do birds matter?