Illegal trade in melodious Straw-headed Bulbul driving populations to critically low levels
The beautiful, melodious song of the Straw-headed Bulbul may very well be its downfall, as trapping for the Indonesian songbird trade is driving populations to critically low levels.
A newly-published journal paper in Bird Conservation International The final straw? An overview of Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus trade in Indonesia" shows that the species is still very much in demand for the songbird trade.
Market inventories in Kalimantan and Java between July 2014 and June 2015 recorded a total of 71 individuals in 11 markets in eight cities; this includes five birds that were kept as pets and were not for sale. Comparing this against historical literature, researchers found that as numbers in markets decreased, prices soared to over 20 times those recorded in 1987. This availability-to-price relationship suggests that the inflation in prices is linked directly to the rarity of the birds in the wild.
The Straw-headed Bulbul’s IUCN Red List conservation status was revised from Vulnerable to Endangered in 2015, but the authors believe that a Critically Endangered status more accurately reflects the situation.
"Just 71 animals over a year seems miniscule when compared to tens of thousands of birds traded in the Indonesian market. However, each animal taken is one too many for a rare species that has disappeared from most of its original range, and whose survival is now hanging by a thread," said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for Southeast Asia.
The species has most likely vanished from Myanmar, Thailand and Java, but small pockets remain in Sumatra, where there has been only one recent reported sighting since 2009. Populations in Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia have also greatly declined.