In a last-minute effort to save one of the world's rarest bird species, theCikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Indonesia transferred six pairs of Javan green magpies to the Chester Zoo in the U.K. Experts believe there are less than 100 of the birds left in the wild.
The birds' captivating bird songs and beautiful green plumage make them one of the world's most sought-after caged birds. The Javan green magpies' natural habitat is also fast disappearing, which lower their population all the more.
UK's Chester Zoo has been working with the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Indonesia for five years to breed the prized, rare birds in their natural habitat. Chester Zoo has been supporting the center with technical expertise and financial aid. In 2013, the conservation center successfully bred the first Javan green magpie.
Unfortunately, after a series of break-ins, the Indonesian breeding facility was obliged to transfer 12 birds to Chester Zoo for safekeeping. To ensure the species' survival, Chester Zoo experts are preparing to launch the first-ever breeding program for captive Javan green magpie outside Indonesia. Chester Zoo's bird curator Andrew Owen stressed the team is "fighting against time" to save the birds from extinction.
"In fact, they have only been found once in the last 10 years in the wild by ornithologists," said Owen.
In Indonesia, millions of birds are plucked from their natural habitat, caged and traded as part of a culture wherein keeping caged birds symbolizes status symbol. The price of caged birds increases as the popular diminishes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and BirdLife International listed the Javan green magpie as a threatened species.
The bird's beautiful plumage make them prime targets in pet trade. They have bright green feathers because of the food they eat, such as lizards, insects and frogs. Sadly, even the youngest members of the bird species are plucked out of their nests. Many caged birds can be found outside restaurants, homes and commercial establishments in Indonesia.
"Songbirds are still sought after by hobbyists who enter them into song contests - forever seeking birds with the most original and unique songs," added Owen.
He emphasized they are in a desperate situation to save the rare birds from extinction, but changing Indonesia's culture of keeping song birds for status symbol is a difficult undertaking. However, Owen said that with increased awareness, education and a protected habitat, the team is hopeful that one day they could reintroduce the rare birds back into the wild.