Archived 2012-2013 topics: White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba): uplist to Endangered?

White Cockatoo Cacatua alba (BirdLife species factsheet) is found on the islands of Halmahera, Bacan, Ternate, Tidore, Kasiruta and Mandiole (in the Northern Maluku Endemic Bird Area), Indonesia. It inhabits primary, logged and secondary forest up to 900 m, and also occurs in mangroves, plantations (including coconut) and agricultural land, indicating that it tolerates habitat modification, although the highest densities occur in primary forest, and it requires large trees for nesting and communal roosting. The species is listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd, on the basis that it is undergoing a rapid population decline (30-49% over three generations, estimated by BirdLife to be c.39 years [based on an estimated generation length of c.13 years]), owing principally to unsustainable levels of exploitation, which is likely to continue into the near future unless revised trapping quotas are effectively enforced. Indeed, CITES data indicate that at its peak in 1991, c.17% of the global population was being taken annually for the legal international cage-bird trade. In 2007, the catch quota was 10 pairs, and only for breeding purposes. However, an investigation by ProFauna revealed that at least 200 were caught from the wild in North Halmahera in 2007, far exceeding the quota (ProFauna in litt. 2008). Although forest within parts of the species’s range remains relatively intact, exploitation by logging companies has become intensive, and some areas have been cleared for agriculture and mining. Significant changes in forest cover on Halmahera appear to have driven a concomitant decline in the species’s population (F. Lambert in litt. 2012). Habitat and nest-site availability in particular are therefore decreasing. Furthermore, new logging roads greatly facilitate access for trappers. A recent study by Vetter (2009) used remote sensing techniques to track the rate and spatial pattern of forest loss in the North Maluku Endemic Bird Area between 1990 and 2003, and project rates of deforestation over the next three generations for restricted range bird species found in this region, with consequent recommendations for category changes on the IUCN Red List. This study estimated the rate of forest loss within the geographic and elevation range of White Cockatoo to be c.20.2% between 1990 and 2003, and projected the loss of c.65.4% of forest in its range over the next three generations. Vetter (2009) states that this species could be a candidate for uplisting to Endangered, based on this forest loss analysis and knowledge that capture over quota limits was still taking place. This species shows considerable tolerance of habitat modification and fragmentation, and is still thought to have a large population, based on an estimate from the early 1990s of c.43,000-183,000 individuals (Lambert 1993), but there appears to be strong evidence that it could decline by 50-79% over the next 39 years, potentially qualifying it for uplisting to Endangered under criterion A3. Comments on this potential category change and further information would be welcomed. References: Lambert, F. R. (1993) Trade, status and management of three parrots in the North Moluccas, Indonesia: White Cockatoo Cacatua alba, Chattering Lory Lorius garrulus and Violet-eared Lory Eos squamata. Bird Conserv. Int. 3: 145-168. Vetter, J. (2009) Impacts of Deforestation on the Conservation Status of Endemic Birds in the North Maluku Endemic Bird Area from 1990-2003. MSc Project. Durham, NC: Duke University.

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2 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba): uplist to Endangered?

  1. It is pitty that hunting of this species still occur. As reported by Malut Post (local newspaper in north Maluku) on 3 May 2013, a joint personnel from the Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) of North Maluku, military police, quarantine and port officers foiled smuggling 241 animals to Surabaya, and at least one of them is White Cockatoo.

  2. Andy Symes says:

    Stewart Metz sent the following comment:

    The amount of decimation of C. alba in the illegal wild bird trade is probably considerably greater than alluded to in the synopsis, above. ProFauna has repeatedly documented that thousands of these cockatoos are smuggled from Maluku Utara to NE Sulawesi, many ending up in a rehabilitation and rescue there. It is likely that some of the birds which escape, travel through the south -west of Sulawesi through small towns such as Kadatua, where we have documented for the first time such smuggling. They end up in the bird markets in western Indonesia. We (the Indonesian Parrot Project) received a number of ‘White cockatoos’ for care in our rehabilitation center in the Central Moluccas; this is quite a distance from North Maluku and indicates how widespread the illegal trapping of C. alba has spread. Indeed, many of the cockatoos are transported from Indonesia to the Philippines. The point is that the illegal trade in this cockatoo is probably grossly underestimated, aided by forged papers and at times, claims that they are really another species or are for breeding (which would circumvent the quota). These observations, combined with the serious data re precipitous loss of habitat, suggest that this cockatoo is imperiled and should be uplisted to “Endangered” status.
    Stewart Metz

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