Archived 2016 topics: Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush (Garrulax rufifrons): uplist from Endangered to Critically Endangered?

A montane laughingthrush with a restricted historical distribution across the upper slopes of central and western Javan volcanoes, Garrulax rufifrons (BirdLife species factsheet) is currently listed as Endangered under criterion A2cd + 3cd +4cd. This listing, as mentioned above, was on the basis that it is likely to be suffering a very rapid population decline caused primarily by heavy trapping pressure as well as habitat loss in some areas.

Further urgent work was given as a priority for the species and, while some work is still in preparation several papers concerning the species have since been published. There have been no field records of the species away from Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park since 1990 (Eaton et al. 2015, J. Eaton in litt. 2016). During that time the status of the species at local markets has changed from ‘cheap local songster’ in 2000 through the price increasing tenfold in 2012 to the species subsequently disappearing almost completely from the market (Collar and van Balen 2013, Owen et al. 2014, Eaton et al. 2015). This clear parallel with the tale of the Javan Green Magpie is notable, although that species has been regarded as far more desirable on the markets and its disappearance could be postulated have reduced the trapping effort within the habitat shared by the two species (Collar and van Balen 2013). However many species from this habitat are still readily available at the markets, and the very high price commanded by the bulbul in recent years would suggest that if birds were still numerous at one site these would be targeted. Indeed, one individual was recently discovered in the market at Bandung, and was obtained by the Cikanaga Wildlife Center (Anon. 2016), and three were recorded in two shops during a survey of the three largest markets in Jakarta in July 2014 (Chng et al. 2015) implying that there are still some individuals left to trap and that trappers are operating within the species range.

A single individual of the subspecies G. r. slamatensis is held in captivity at the Cikanaga Wildlife Center (Owen et al. 2014, Anon. 2016), otherwise this taxon has not been recorded since 1925 (Collar and van Balen 2013), despite recent survey effort on Gunung Slamat (Mittermeier et al. 2014 [although mist-netting effort at this site was largely above the elevational range of the species]).

The species is listed as protected under Undang-undang Republik Indonesia No. 5 Tahun 1990 tentang Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Hayati dan Ekosistemnya (Act of the Republic of Indonesia No. 5 of 1990 concerning Conservation of Living Resources and their Ecosystems), which means that no harvest or trade is permitted (Shepherd 2011). The species is not listed on the appendices of CITES.

The suggestion from the pattern of occurrence in the cage-bird trade is that this species has been reduced to a very low population level, and has likely been extirpated from several sites. It is proposed that the species qualifies for listing as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(i), on the basis that the population size is likely to be fewer than 250 mature individuals in the wild and that there are fewer than 50 mature individuals in each subpopulation. A case could also be made that the population decline at a point in the recent past exceeded 80% over the past 14.1 years (three generations for this species), which would qualify the species as Critically Endangered under criterion A2d, and likely also A3d + A4d, on the assumption that the exploitation continues at similar levels, but the reduction in numbers in trade is a result of the population now being tiny.

Any further information is very welcome.



Anon. 2016. Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush. Cikananga Wildlife Center. Website: Accessed 24th August 2016.

Chng, S. C. L., Eaton, J. A., Krishnasamy, K., Shepherd, C. R. & Nijman, V. 2015. In the market for extinction: an inventory of Jakarta’s bird markets. Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia: TRAFFIC.

Collar, N. J. & 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.

Mittermeier, J. C., Oliveros, C. H., Haryoko, T., Irham, M. and Moyle, R. G. 2014. An avifaunal survey of three Javan volcanoes—Gn Salak, Gn Slamet and the Ijen highlands. BirdingASIA 22: 91–100.

Owen, A., Wilkinson, R. & Sözer, R. 2014. In situ conservation breeding and the role of zoological institutions and private breeders in the recovery of highly endangered Indonesian passerine birds. International Zoological Yearbook. 48: 199–211.

Shepherd, C. R. 2011. Observations on trade in laughingthrushes (Garrulax spp.) in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Bird Conserv. Internatn. 21: 86–91.

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5 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush (Garrulax rufifrons): uplist from Endangered to Critically Endangered?

  1. James Eaton says:

    I can confirm that no further sightings away from Gunung Gede-Prangrango have been made this year, to my knowledge, though birds recently found in a Bandung market indicate that a small population persists nearby.
    I concur with everything else that the species should be uplisted to Critically Endangered.

  2. Serene Chng says:

    TRAFFIC would like to share information on trade observations of this species, in a bid to quantify and better understand the threat from overexploitation. Based on the evidence available, we strongly support the uplisting of this species to a Critically Endangered status.

    Only very small numbers of Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush were observed in market surveys across Java; in addition to the ones observed in Jakarta in 2014 mentioned above, 1 individual was observed for sale in Surabaya in June 2015 (Chng and Eaton, 2016). None of which were of the subspecies G. r. slametensis and it is possible that this subspecies no longer exists in the wild. Their near disappearance from local bird markets, coupled with rising prices, suggests a serious decline in numbers (Shepherd et al., in press). Additionally, observations of at least 2 individuals for sale in Bandung were made by an Indonesian conservation organisation in August 2016.

    Chng, S.C.L. & Eaton, J.A. 2016. In the Market for Extinction: eastern and central Java. TRAFFIC. Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.

    Shepherd, C.R., Eaton, J.A. and Chng, S.C.L. In press. Nothing to laugh about – the ongoing illegal trade in laughingthrushes (Garrulax species) in the bird markets of Java, Indonesia. Bird Conservation International.

  3. Anais Tritto says:

    Other information from the market survey: one bird from the nominated species was found in a bird market in Bandung in August 2016, at a different place where the last bird was acquired by Cikananga. When Cikananga got the information on the last acquired bird, there were actually three rufifrons but, when Cikananga arrived, only one bird remained meaning that the demand should be higher than expected.

  4. Andrew Owen says:

    A series of short surveys in suitable habitat in Halimun – Salak National park in 2013 and in four areas in the Bandung mountains in 2014 failed to locate this species. Evidence of heavy bird trapping was seen in many locations in the Bandung mountains.
    The species was only encountered (in 2013) at the already well-known location in Gede-Pangrango National Park.
    It is unclear if this species is being specifically targeted by trappers or if it is being taken as by-catch when trappers are mist-netting for more sought after species?
    The small numbers appearing in the trade suggest there may be small sub-populations of this species in remote areas – but for how much longer?
    I agree that this species should be up-listed to critically endangered.

  5. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.