Indonesia is home to over 1,500 species of native birds, and of these species, 370 are found only in Indonesia. However, the country’s biodiversity is in danger of disappearing, with an estimated 131 Indonesian bird species threatened with extinction.
There are a variety of reasons for bird species populations to drop, namely deforestation and habitat loss due to increased urbanization and expansion of livestock and crop plantations. In addition, poaching of bird species for the songbird trade is becoming an increasing threat to many native bird species.
Included in this poaching is Bali’s mascot, the Bali Starling, known locally as the Jalak Bali. Songbird ownership has greatly gained popularity within Bali in the last few years. The industry is estimated to be worth 80 million USD annually and has created the explosion of side industries, such as cage and accessory making.
Begawan Foundation was founded in 1999 by Bradley and Debbie Gardner, who wished to assist local people with environmental and conservation projects. The Bali Starling Conservation Project was formed, aiming to breed and release these critically endangered birds and bring the Bali Starling back from the brink of extinction.
At that time there were only 15 Bali Starlings in the wild in Bali Barat National Park. When the population of Bali Starlings at Begawan Foundation had grown from 4 birds to more than 80, plans were made to release birds on Nusa Penida, an isolated island south of mainland Bali.
The release program in 2006-7 on Nusa Penida was initially successful, with chicks born and raised in the wild. However, independent bird audits in 2012 and later in 2015 showed the population had fallen from around 80 birds in 2009 to just 6 birds. Sadly, poaching is the main threat to the success of the Bali Starling breeding and release program, as the birds fetch high prices on the black market.
Begawan Foundation’s Breeding and Release Centre began its program in 2010 and has seen the release of 16 birds to the wild, with an additional 5 chicks surviving in the wild. Dr Jane Goodall, Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon and his wife, Madam Yoo, all participated in release events in 2012.
Unfortunately, poaching continues to threaten the conservation program. To spread awareness, the foundation conducts education programs with local kindergartens, primary, and junior high schools, and have taught in around 50 classes in 25 schools in 6 villages. Currently, they have 10 week programs running at elementary schools and a vocational high school in Payangan. These lessons include visiting the foundation to learn more about the birds and other aspects of environmental protection, such as water conservation and appropriate waste disposal.
Due to the growing interest from children around Melinggih Kelod and Melinggih villages, the foundation built its own Learning and Conservation Centre, as an addition to its own community club “Klub Lingkungan”. The Learning Centre provides a large airy space for additional activities such as wet art and craft. The centre also has its own kitchen so that students are able to learn to cook as well as apply their Mathematics skills in cooking (measuring, weighing, etc.). It is also strategically placed adjacent to their own permaculture garden, a place for students to learn basic principles and enjoy gardening. The foundation also regularly hosts national and international schools from within and outside of Bali to educate students of the importance of conserving Indonesia’s unique bird species.
The foundation works in collaboration with the villages of Melinggih Kelod and Melinggih to conduct community socialization projects with young Banjar leaders to promote the importance of conserving Bali’s unique mascot for future generations.
Begawan Foundation relies on the generosity of donors to complete its vital work. You can help by logging onto the website to learn more and make a donation.
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