The Endangered Parrots of Indonesia


Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago. It is said to consist of more than 13,000 islands but it is dominated by just five of these-Sumatra, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Java, Sulawesi and Irian jaya (the Indonesian part of New Guinea). It is home to 75 species of parrots, which is more than any other country; Brazil has 71 species and Australia has 52.

Indonesia has a fascinating range of parrots: lories, cockatoos, pygmy parrots, fig parrots, the Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus), tiger parrots (Psittacella), Geoffroyus Parrots, racket-tailed parrots (Prioniturus), Tanygnathusparrots such as the Greatbill (T.megalorhynchus), Eclectus, Amboina King Parrot tAltsterus amboinensis), Timor Crimson-winged Parakeet (Aprosmictus jonquillaceus) and hanging parrots. The western extremity of Indonesia can include such Asian species as Moustache and Longtailed Parakeets. Its parrots are more varied than those of any other region in the world.

This is mainly because of its great diversity of habitats, which include many different types of forest. Although Indonesia covers only 1 % of the world's land surface, 17% of the world's birds are found there and 10% of the world's plant species. It has a very high percentage of endemism among its birdlife-that is, species which are not found anywhere else outside of their island or group of islands.

Unfortunately, the most important statistic about Indonesia from our point of view is that is has more threatened bird species than any other country on earth. The total is 104. Brazil is a close second with 103 species. The total number of threatened birds worldwide is 1,111 (Collar, et al, 1994), therefore Indonesia has 9.4%.

Endangered Parrots

So far I seem to have bombarded the reader with figures, so now let us look at the parrot species which are endangered-and why.


Reasons For Decline

It is very clear that deforestation and trapping are the factors which have done most damage to parrot populations in Indonesia in that order, chronologically. Most of the parrots mentioned above were unknown in aviculture until the early 1970s when logging opened up the previously inaccessible areas they inhabited. The logging companies built roads where there had been none. This resulted in people settling in formerly uninhabited areas. The birdlife was abundant and the people soon realized that there was money to be made from trapping birds. This is why the early 1970s saw the greatest influx of "new" species that aviculture has ever known.


Trapping continued at an alarming and unsustainable rate until the mid 1980s. Then it was discovered that trappers of some species were unable to catch so many birds because flock sizes had declined. In some areas some species were being trapped almost to extinction. The first scientific study of the effects of trade soon followed. Funded by The World Wide Fund for Nature and IUCN, it investigated the trade in parrots on two Moluccan islands during 1985. An estimated 180,000 to 200,000 Moluccan parrots were reported traded during 1981 to 1984-yet only nine species were involved in this trade. That means that an average of 5,000 birds per year of each species were reported in trade. Probably as many more, however, were illegally exported or


died before they could enter trade. The parrots involved were Chattering (and Yellow-backed) Lories, Violet-necked, Red and Blue-streaked Lories (Eos) species), Green-naped Lorikeets, Umbrella, Moluccan and Goffin's Cockatoos and Amboina King Parrots.

The most endangered by trapping was the Moluccan Cockatoo which some believed (e.g., Wirth, 1990) was critically endangered by the time it was placed on Appendix 1 of CITES in 1989. In 1992, the Goffin's Cockatoo was also placed on Appendix 1 of CITES. Despite the fact that two of the most threatened species were then prohibited from commercial trade, illegal trapping continued. Indonesia did little to protect the other parrots trapped in large numbers. However, in 1988 the countries in the European Community prohibited the most threatened species, such as Blue-streaked and Purple-capped Lories, from entering its member countries and soon after, of course, the importation of all wildcaught birds into the USA was curtailed.

Unfortunately, this did not stop the export of Indonesian parrots; it merely diverted them to countries without morals where threatened parrots were concerned, such as some European countries and Japan.

I will now provide information on each of the threatened parrots of Indonesia,

Red and Blue Lory (Eos bistrio)

This Jory is an almost unique case of how a parrot can be endangered by trade without specific demand. It was literally unknown in aviculture until only five years ago. There was always a local trade, within the Sangihe and Talaud islands, the only places where it occurs. These islands form a chain from northern Sulawesi to Mindanao in the Philippines. Then suddenly, hundreds of birds were captured and exported. In 1992 about 1,000 were captured, at least 700 of which were exported. In that year, at least 200 died from disease and neglect at the premises of one dealer in Jakarta. I saw dozens crowded together in the cages of a dealer in Singapore. This would have been appalling whatever the


species. It was especially sad in the case of the Red and Blue Lory which had never been seen in aviculture in Europe or the USA. Breeders there would have cherished these beautiful lories and would soon have established them. But they were not allowed to be imported. Most of those that survived must have ended up as pets in countries where there is no avicultural expertise. Fortunately, two consignments went to South Africa before their importation there was also banned. It is ironic that the more responsible countries, those with a high level of avicultural skills, did not permit the importation of these lories, most of which would not have survived long in the countries which did allow their entry. However, a few birds did reach the Netherlands; they have been bred there, in South Africa and in Singapore. They will be established in aviculture but with a small gene pool, which may prove problematical in the long term.

There are three sub-species of the Red and Blue Lory. In 1995 a combined expedition from York university in the UK and from an Indonesian university went to Sangihe where the nominate race is found. Until then the Red and Blue Lory was believed extinct there, but the expedition members found some small groups of two to six birds. The status of the subspecies challengeri from the Miangas and Nenusa Islands is unknown as no ornithologist has been able to visit these remote islands. It is feared extinct because islanders questioned recently had no knowledge of it. Only the sub-species talautensis survives in any numbers. There are believed to be about 2,000 birds on the island of Karakelong. However, these are threatened by trade, even though the Red and Blue Lory was placed on Appendix 1 of CITES in 1994. Trapping continues and the main trapping season coincides with the breeding season, so one can guess that many more birds are removed from the population than those trapped; many young might die in the nest if their parents are caught.

It is obvious that an education program is urgently needed to stop the trapping. A second University of York

expedition hopes to address this problem, via radio, television and press.




Collar. N.j., M.j.Cosby and A.j.Stattersfield, 1994 Birds to Watch 2, The World List of Threatened Birds, BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Lambert, F., R. Wirth, U.S. Seal, et al, 1993, Parrots: an. action. plan. for their conservation. 1993-1998. BirdLife International and IUCN, Cambridge, UK.

Wirth, R., 1990, Moluccan Cockatoos and other Indonesian Parrots, Proceedings, 2nd International Parrot Conuention, Lora Parque, Tenerife.