Bali mynahs brought back from brink of extinction in the wild by bird seller program

Early mynah releases were plagued with issues: some birds were infected with a parasite that caused high fledgling mortality, others were killed by natural predators. Poaching also continued — and the national park’s captive breeding facility was even robbed at gunpoint, with nearly 40 birds stolen.

Villagers near the conservation zone hope tourists come to see the birds in their native habitat. Credit:AP

Yet conservation efforts in the last decade have seen greater success through increased monitoring of the birds, stronger census data and more research, said Squires.

Agus Ngurah Krisna Kepakisan, the head of the West Bali National Park, also attributes the success of the breeding program to the creation and proliferation of “buffer villages” around the park. Villagers get assistance in obtaining permits to breed Bali mynahs there.

“With the community being the breeders … they are helping us to take care of the birds that exist in nature,” he said. “There are also those who used to often look for and take Bali mynah from nature.”

Squires said there’s definitive evidence some released birds have produced offspring. “So that leads me to believe that the population is certainly self-sustaining to an extent,” he said.

The breeding program’s strides are visible throughout the park, where Kepakisan says 420 Bali mynahs now live and hop around in trees, pop their heads out of bird boxes and squawk at tourists passing beneath them.

By 2001, conservationists estimated that only six of the mynahs were left in the wild.

By 2001, conservationists estimated that only six of the mynahs were left in the wild. Credit:AP

Traditionally, communities around conservation areas have thought there’s no money to be made from them, he said. But Wirayudha believes the rare birds’ presence will help draw tourists, which will provide additional tourism income to the region as it has in other parts of Bali province where mynahs have been released.

“You need to give something back to the community so they can feel that conservation gives them benefits,” he said.

Community outreach seems to be working. At the organisation’s April release of mynahs, groups of students, police, military and neighbouring villagers eagerly watched as the mynahs made their first flight into the wild.


Squires, the researcher, says the conservation model could be applied to other vulnerable or endangered birds in Indonesia such as the black-winged mynah. “For any of the lowland birds affected by the caged bird trade … this is the sort of approach that’s going to be needed,” he said.


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