Harvesting wild birds for the cage bird trade has long been recognized as a threat to a select number of species with traits that render them susceptible to unsustainable harvest from the wild, such as Philippine Cockatoo and the particular circumstances surrounding Bali Myna. The threat from the trade in many hundreds of wild-caught species has always been recognized as a serious additional impact on populations, but has typically been considered less significant to widespread species in comparison to other threats faced, prime amongst them the impact of habitat destruction and degradation.
In the last few years it has become clear that the scale of the trade in wild-caught birds, particularly in Indonesia, has been directly responsible for local and regional extinctions and threatens several species with global extinction (Eaton et al. 2015, Harris et al. 2015). This has been recognized for a few species. Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush Garrulus rufifrons was uplisted to Endangered in 2013 due to its disappearance from sites with formerly good populations coinciding with numbers of the birds in the trade, which were subsequently shown to have risen sharply in value as supply collapsed (Collar and van Balen 2013). Javan Green Magpie Cissa thalassina was listed as Critically Endangered in 2012 upon recognition as a species separate from Bornean Green Magpie C. jefferyi (van Balen et al. 2013), but only partly on the basis that the species was likely to have been targeted by bird trappers. It now seems clear that the magnitude of reduction to such a small population size was in excess of that predicted by habitat loss within the elevational range of the species, much of which lies within protected areas and was coincident with a very rapid increase in price and highly restricted availability of captive birds (van Balen et al. 2013, Eaton et al. 2015).
Further research has since taken place into the extent and potential impact of this trade, in particular with a focus on the Indonesian market (Chng et al. 2015, Eaton et al. 2015, Harris et al. 2015, Shepherd et al. 2013, 2015). This has prompted the realisation that even previously widespread and common species had disappeared from or declined across large areas of their range and that the numbers of individuals passing through the large markets was staggering (Chng et al. 2015, Eaton et al. 2015). As a result there are a number of species affected by trade, frequently in conjunction with habitat loss, which may meet thresholds for listing in higher threat categories.
At the same time, a number of species have undergone significant taxonomic changes as a result of the application of criteria for recognizing species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the second volume of the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, soon to be published by Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International. Several taxa formerly considered subspecies have been elevated to species status, and are recognised as being severely threatened by the impact of trade. These are presented here in the interests of compiling comments on the impact of trade on this suite of species, along with a link to the taxonomic topic detailing the newly defined species.
Comments and feedback are requested regarding the species presented below. This list is based upon those species that were noted as the priority species arising from the 2015 Asian Songbird Crisis Summit where the trade is believed to threaten the species globally, accounting for the changes in taxonomy referred to above. Additionally there are topics for secondary species where the threat is considered sufficient to warrant the suggestion of a change of global status, but further information is urgently sought. While these are believed to be the species most clearly threatened by trade, additional species suggested will be investigated for future updates.
Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus is being split into A. melanopterus, A. tricolor and A. tertius: retain A. melanopterus as Critically Endangered, and additionally list A. tricolor and A. tertius as Critically Endangered?
Obviously extensive trade involving wild-caught birds is taking place in other countries in south-east Asia and in China (e.g. Nijman 2010). Systematic investigations tracking changes in the availability and price of potentially at-risk species are urgently needed, especially in cities such as Guangzhou, China.
van Balen, S. (B.), Eaton, J. A. and Rheindt, F. E. (2013) Biology, taxonomy and conservation status of the Short-tailed Green Magpie Cissa [t.] thalassina from Java. Bird Conservation International 22: 91–109
Chng, S. C. L., Eaton, J. A., Krishnasamy, K., Shepherd, C. R. and Nijman, V. 2015. In the market for extinction: an inventory of Jakarta’s bird markets. Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: TRAFFIC.
Collar, N. J. and van Balen, S. 2013. Notes for the conservation of the Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush Garrulax rufifrons. Forktail 29:15–18.
Eaton, J.A., Shepherd, C.R., Rheindt, F.E., Harris, J.B.C., van Balen, S. (B.), Wilcove, D.S. and Collar, N.J. 2015. Trade-driven extinctions and near-extinctions of avian taxa in Sundaic Indonesia. Forktail 31: 1-12.
Harris, J. B. C., Green, J. M. H., Prawiradilaga, D. M., Giam, X., Giyanto, Hikmatullah, D., Putra, C. A. and Wilcove, D. S. 2015. Using market data and expert opinion to identify overexploited species in the wild bird trade. Biological Conservation 187: 51–60.
Nijman, V. 2010. An overview of international wildlife trade from Southeast Asia. Biodiversity Conservation 19: 1101-1114.
Shepherd, C. R. 2013. Protection urgently needed for the endemic Sumatran Laughingthrush. TRAFFIC Bull. 25: 53–54.
Shepherd, C. R., Nijman, V., Krishnasamy, K., Eaton, J. A. and Chng, S. C. L. 2015. Illegal trade pushing the Critically Endangered Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus towards imminent extinction. Bird Conservation International. DOI: 10.1017/S0959270915000106.
Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.