The Zimbabwe Eight (Now What Are We Going to Do?) part II


Editor's Note: In June, 1997 CITES added eight birds to its Appendix II which, in affect, cut off the importation of these species into the US. In Lindholm's first part of this report (Watchbird, November/December 1997) he dealt with four of the species-the Straw-headed Bulbul, Silver-eared Mesia, Pekin Robin, and the Emei Shan Iiocicbla.

He treats an additional three species here to bring us up to seven of the Zimbabwe Eight and his comments on the final bird will appear in theju!y/August issue. SID}

Superb Tanager Tanqara fastuosa

Of the eight species of birds added to CITES Appendix II, at Harare, Zimbabwe, in June, 1997, this is the most obvious candidate. In fact, it ought to have been placed on Appendix I years ago. Not only has there been no legal trade in birds from Brazil since 1967, this endemic species of the severely reduced Atlantic Coastal Forest (home of so many endangered animals) has been considered at risk for a long time (King, 1981).

Yet specimens arrived in Europe through the 1970s and '80s. The German veterinarian Werner Steinigeweg 0988) stated this tanager "is regularly offered for sale."

Rumors persist that specimens showed up in the U.S. as late as 1997. However, while this bird was one of the standard tanagers in aviculture in the early decades of this century (Delacour, 1923), and exhibited by such American zoos as San Diego, St. Louis, Brookfield, and the Bronx, before the Brazilian export ban, I am not aware of any in this country in at least 20 years. I do not believe it has ever hatched here. Jean Delacour (1923) was fairly certain several were hatched by the French aviculturist de Laeger. The only public zoo breedings I am aware of took place at the Natureland Marine Zoo, in Skegness, Britain, where one was hatched, but died, both in 1972 and 1973 (Zoological Society of London, 1974- 75). As of 30 June, 1997, the only Superb Tanagers listed by ISIS 0997) are four unsexed birds at the London Zoo, which, following the crisis of its near closing around 1991, has concentrated on programs for threatened species.

Java Sparrow Loncbura [Padda] oryzivora

Of the 1997 additions to CITES Appendix II, this is the species most likely to raise eyebrows. It has for years been feared as a crop pest and has been illegal for possession by nonlicensed persons in California for a long time. It not only has a wide range across tropical Asia, but has been long established in odd spots around the world: the Fijis, Zanzibar, Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii, and other places. It is also one of the few non-Australian Estrildids firmly established in Aviculture, having been bred in Japan for centuries, with resulting mutations that fortunately, for the time being, don't appear to have interfered with the availability of wild-type stock.

However, its natural range is restricted to Java, Bali, and the tiny islands of Bawean and Kangean, and its recent decrease in its first two locations has been drastic. MacKinnon and Phillips 0993) observe that the Java Sparrow was "formerly one of the common birds of cultivated areas in Java and Bali, ... but is now rather scarce as a result of massive capture for the pet trade."

Despite its prohibition in California, the Java Sparrow is well established in American aviculture though no longer common in pet stores. Bates and Busenbark 0963) wrote "In the United States the Java Rice Bird as a caged household pet is perhaps exceeded in number only by Budgerigars and canaries." This is certainly not the case at present.

It may take some inquiry now days to find a source for Java Sparrows, but once obtained they prove prolific breeders, especially in cages, and are excellent beginner's finches, their two drawbacks being their potential aggressiveness towards smaller birds, and the difficulty in sexing them. It is timely that Stash and Carol Anne Buckley 0997) published an excellent summary of their husbandry.

This species is far less common in zoos than it once was. As of 31 December 1996, ISIS 0997) listed only three U.S. zoos holding any: The Hogle Park Zoo in Salt Lake City with seven, the San Diego Zoo with two, and Mickey Ollson's World Wildlife Zoo in Phoenix with seven.

None of these places hatched any in 1996. Over a 21 year period from 1959 through 1992, more than 251 were hatched from among 13 U.S. zoos (Lindholm, 1996, Zoological Society of London, 1960-1994).

This is a good sturdy bird for mixed aviaries, especially with softbills. When the San Diego Zoo opened its Tropical Rain Forest in 1960, 350 birds of 101 species were released into it. Along with toucans, aracaris, cocks of the rock, and other large birds, there were 25 Java Sparrows (Anon, 1960). The late K.C. Lint told me that by the time (shortly thereafter) that this aviary held 1,000 specimens of more than 200 species, there were 300 Java Sparrows which bred freely.

I will take the opportunity to correct a misconception. I have elsewhere surmised...