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5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree

  • Five bird species in Indonesia have lost their protected status under a new ministerial decree, issued last month in response to complaints from songbird collectors.
  • The decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, which effectively sets the stage for any species to be dropped from the list if it is deemed of high economic value to the songbird fan community.
  • Scientists and wildlife experts have criticized the removal of the five species from the protected list, and the new criteria for granting protected status.
  • Indonesia is home to the largest number of threatened bird species in Asia, but their populations in the wild are severely threatened by overexploitation.

JAKARTA — A new decree from Indonesian authorities drops five bird species from a newly expanded list of protected wildlife, and potentially sets the stage for more to follow by widening the scope under which protected status can be rescinded.

The capture and trade of the white-rumped shama (Kittacincla malabarica), Javan pied starling (Gracupica jalla), straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Sangihe shrikethrush (Colluricincla sanghirensis) and little shrikethrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha) will remain illegal without a government permit, but the lack of protected status means violators won’t face the jail time or hefty fines prescribed in the 1990 Conservation Act.

Four of the birds were among hundreds of species added to the ministry’s list of protected species this past June. The fifth bird, the little shrikethrush, was on the original list published in 1999. All five have now been removed from the list following the publication on Sept. 5 of a decree from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

The capture of wild birds is to be regulated through a government permit-and-quota system that is supposed to consider recommendations from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a state-funded think tank. Mohammad Irham, a senior ornithologist at LIPI, said his institution would reject requests to capture any of the five now-unprotected species from the wild.

He criticized the rescinding of their protected status, saying it would hasten their decline in the wild. “Our decision is based on scientific data, papers and surveys on the populations of these species in the wild,” he told Mongabay.

The ministerial decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, such as the popularity of a given species for breeding and for songbird competitions.

Under current rules, protected status can be granted to a species that is native to Indonesia, has a limited range, and has a small and dwindling population. But the decree adds new criteria for birds alone: the popularity of a species among breeders and hobbyists, the extent to which it contributes to people’s livelihoods, and the frequency with which it appears in songbird competitions.

“There’s a huge local economy aspect to the birdkeeping business,” Wiratno, the environment ministry’s director general for biodiversity conservation, told reporters on Oct. 2.

Read more5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree

Environmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony

Basuki Wasis (third from left, holding a mic), an environmental expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), speaks during a press conference at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI)’s office in Jakarta. Photo courtesy of YLBHI.

 

  • Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert whose testimony helped convict a provincial governor of abuse of power, now faces a lawsuit brought by the latter for alleged inaccuracies in his calculations of environmental damage.
  • The lawsuit against Basuki is similar to one he faced last year from a palm oil company that was fined for setting fires on its concession. The earlier lawsuit was dropped, but the company now appears to be targeting another expert witness who testified against it.
  • The litigation has sparked concerns among environmental experts and activists alike, who fear it will have a silencing effect and allow environmental crimes to go unpunished.
  • They also worry that without financial assessments of damages caused to the environment, prosecutors trying corruption cases in the natural resources sector will not be able to push for longer prison sentences and heavier fines.

 

JAKARTA — Environmental experts and activists are closely watching a lawsuit filed against an academic whose testimony helped convict a governor on corruption charges, in a case many fear could set a worrying precedent.

Basuki Wasis, an expert on environmental degradation from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), has testified in more than 200 cases involving environmental crimes such as forest fires and pollution.

On Feb. 14 this year, he testified as a prosecution witness against Nur Alam, the suspended governor of Southeast Sulawesi, who was charged with abuse of power in the issuance of mining licenses. Basuki told the court that the illegal mining activities by one of the companies that received a permit from Alam had led to deforestation and resulted in 2.7 trillion rupiah ($196 million) in combined ecological losses, environmental economic losses, and the cost of repairing the damage.

On March 12, Alam’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against Basuki, questioning the accuracy of his calculations and his credibility. (Alam was convicted on March 28; he was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay fines and damages totaling 3.7 billion rupiah, or $268,000.)

Read moreEnvironmental Defenders Fear Backlash as Defendant Sues Expert Over Testimony