Bali Starling, to live or to die? (beritaburung, March 2011)

The Bali Starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) is a bird of about 25cm and is endemic to the forests of West Bali, presently the location on West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat, TNBB).

The Bali Starling was first discovered in 1910. The bird was named after the British zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild (1868-1937) who was the first to describe this bird species in 1912.

Protected by Indonesian Constitutional Law

bs beritaburungIn 1991 this bird was declared the Symbol of Balinese Fauna and is protected by Indonesian Constitution as is written down in Government Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah, PP) Amendment no.7/1999 and the stipulations set down in Indonesian Constitutional Law no.5/1990.

The Bali Starling has been listed by CITES as virtually extinct in 'Appendix I' and there are strict regulations regarding its trade, while the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) lists the Bali Starling as Critically Endangered. In other words, there is great concern for the conservation status of this bird as it is under threat of becoming extinct in the wild and it looks like it will altogether vanish in the near future.

As a bird species protected worldwide, it is curious to note that nowadays this charming bird is bred in several countries across the globe, i.e. the USA, Japan, Australia and a few other countries, and is no longer the monopoly of Bali, nor of Indonesia for that matter.

No offspring

There are hundreds of captive-bred bred Bali Starlings (surplus-Red) in these countries, especially zoos, far more than in its original habitat, as reported in 2010, whereas the number of birds in West Bali National Park is less than 180. In the years before there was just a handful.

Despite this success, it has come to the attention of that the Bali Starlings that were bred for example in Japan, after they had been imported into Indonesia for release in their original habitat, were no longer able to produce offspring, apparently due to their poor condition, as they had been neutered by the Japanese zoos.

There are a few of these Bali Starlings that have been released by Indonesian officials that very likely are unable to breed. "And that's because they were neutered by the Japanese Zoo (Yokohama)," according to a source in a Bali Starling Breeding Centre.


If this is true, it is ironic that on the one hand we have the good heart to lend a very rare Indonesian bird species in order for it to be bred abroad (as we have need for it ourselves), and what we see returned to Indonesia is only neutered birds. "They are far more clever than we are," says the informant.

It is a "special" treatment given to the Bali Starlings by outside parties. On the other hand, the apparent courtesy treatment policy practiced by the conservation authorities in Indonesia has an equally destructive effect and might even lead to the bird's extinction.

Endless bureaucracy

The endless bureaucracy, a policy professed as something serious, rife with all kinds of lip service, combined with 'very urgent' conservation activities, have managed to kill the small bird, which is traded in large numbers and has even become the main commodity of the black market.

Let's call it a 'report journal' on the growth development of the Bali Starling, so that now they hope that the Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA) is capable of producing a development journal on the Bali Starling "in order for us not to worry, we just fill it in," says Mukhtar, a Bali Starling breeder.

This is also the case with the process of a young Bali Starling chick from the moment of its birth until the time it reaches one month of age. The officials come and go to witness the moment the mother bird lays her eggs, the eggs hatch, the chick reaches a few weeks of age and it is ringed until the moment it is equipped with a transmitter ('transponder') device.

After all this, the bird gets a certificate, a sort of an Ownership License (BPKB), which is not very efficient and very costly, adds another Bali Starling breeder who is a member of the Bali Starling Breeding Association.

It has to be said: there have been attempts to regulate the Bali Starling Certificate, but they were to no avail as they came too late and these activities came to a premature halt. So that was the end of the certificate.

Cumbersome breeding license

Mario Blanco, cultural observer and owner of the Antonio Blanco Museum in Bali, and breeder of the Bali Starling, sighs that it is hard to obtain a breeding license for the Bali Starling. "It has taken me four years to get a license, but I finally managed to get one", he says.

Only captive-bred birds that have the legal status of Badan Hukum can be legally traded on the official market, a so-called Edgar Status and Commercial Status, and it is far from simple to arrange for that status on paper as a condition that has to be met by the breeders. "It is very hard to arrange this", says another breeder.

The breeders object to these difficult conditions; where else can the breeders make a profit than by selling the captive-bred Bali Starlings in order to cover the breeding costs?

Not to mention the 10:1 obligation, a regulation set out by the government (Natural Resources Conservation Center , BKSDA) for all breeders, whereby for every 10 captive-bred birds one bird has to be given back to the state. This is considered an arrogant affront. Never have there been reports on where the one-out-of-ten bird they gave back ended up, never any sign of a report, perhaps it was just confiscated, says Mukhtar.

Finally, they conclude that if there are regulations that make the breeding or the trading of the captive-bred Bali Starling perhaps not impossible, this policy does make it more likely that the bird will one day become extinct. All the more so since the status of this bird leaves little room for it to breed in its original habitat whilst there is proof that raised amounts of birds can more successfully be obtained by captive breeding in for instance zoos. (A5)


  • (March, 2011; presently defunct?), translated from Indonesian by the author GD.

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