The level of the illegal songbird trade in Indonesia has not shown a significant decline even though the confiscation rate has been quite high, at least in the last three years. Between January-March 2023 alone, more than 11,000 songbirds were confiscated by government authorities. But this is just a fraction of the huge number of wild songbirds traded, illegally. Weak law enforcement is one of the reasons why the illegal trade in songbirds is still rampant in Indonesia. Our forests are falling silent.
The number of illegal trade in the Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill (Aceros cassidix) in the past year is quite high. From January 2022-March 2023, 35 Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill were rescued from illegal trade. 25 of the Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill were rescued from illegal trade throughout 2022. These birds were rescued at the same location, are at the Tanjung Perak Seaport, East Java. Meanwhile, during January-March 2023, 10 Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill were rescued in 2 different locations, are in Surabaya and Jakarta. Most of the seizures of the Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill originate from information provided by FLIGHT to law enforcement. The Sulawesi Red-Knobbed Hornbill is an endemic bird from Sulawesi. This species usually lives in the forest canopy and has an ecological role as a seed disperser and helps forest regeneration processes.
The illegal wildlife trade in Indonesia is still rife. On January 2023 period, FLIGHT succeeded in supporting the police, quarantine center and BKSDA to save 1,037 wild animals, the majority of which are songbirds, from attempts to be traded illegally. These wild animals were rescued from different locations, namely on the South Lampung toll road, Bakauheni Port, Lampung, and Ketapang Port in Banyuwangi, East Java. The confiscated songbirds have been released into the wild after a health check. The songbird population in Indonesia continues to be under pressure mainly due to poaching and illegal trade. Some bird species are hard to find in the wild. In nature, birds have vital functions for ecosystems, such as dispersing plant seeds and maintaining the balance of the food chain.
On 2 December, FLIGHT assisted the South Sulawesi Natural Resources Conservation Agency to release 10 red knobbed hornbills into the wild. These hornbills are victims of illegal trade. They were rescued at the Tanjung Perak Seaport, Surabaya when they were about to be smuggled to East Java from Sulawesi. Officers assisted by FLIGHT staff found the hornbills trapped in small boxes hidden in the truck. The hornbills are then sent to an rescue center managed by the East Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency for treatment. After confirming that they are healthy, the hornbills are then translocated to to Sulawesi as its native area and released into the wild. The knobbed hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix), also known as Sulawesi wrinkled hornbill, is a colourful hornbill native to Indonesia. The knobbed hornbill is the faunal symbol of South Sulawesi province. As with other hornbills, the knobbed hornbill is believed to be monogamous. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, but it will also take insects and small vertebrates. Knobbed hornbills are important seed dispersers in their habitat and influence the initial fate of seeds of several tropical forest tree species. The species is currently classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. Despite being locally very common, they are threatened by habitat destruction from logging (since they depend on large and mature trees for breeding) and to some extent by hunting.
Wildlife trade is one of the main conservation threats in Southeast Asia and Indonesia is known for high levels of illegal and unsustainable trade in various wildlife. During the FLIGHT period in November 2022, partners and other agencies managed to carry out 8 confiscations. The agencies and partners involved were the Surabaya Quarantine, Tanjung Perak Port Police, Pelalawan Police, BKSDA, Law Enforcement Unit of MoEF, Central Lampung Police, Bakauheni Seaport Police, Lampung Road Patrol, Military Police, and FLIGHT managed to seizure 5,208 birds during the November 2022 period. The confiscation locations were carried out in Lampung, Surabaya and Papua. Most of the birds confiscated were songbirds with a total of 2,176 birds found at Ketapang Seaport, Banyuwangi. The other bird species are the Red Knobbed hornbill, the Single Gelambir Cassowary, the Parrot Bayan, and the pitohui. The confiscated birds are then handed over to the relevant agency (BKSDA) for release.