Sibang: A conservation area for Bali starlings

Sibang: A conservation area for Bali starlings

by Desy Nurhayati on 2014-04-22

Sibang village has recently been declared a conservation area for Bali starlings under a project initiated by Begawan Foundation, in cooperation with the local community and the Bali office of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).

The declaration was marked by the release of four birds into the village area on April 18, in an event held in the grounds of Green School, where the breeding site is located.

This was the second time the foundation had released the endangered species from the breeding site, which currently houses a total of 63 birds. The first release took place in November 2012.

“Having strong and solid support from local communities is the biggest factor in the success of previous releases. We have been working closely with the local community in Sibang for some time now,” Tasya Karissa, the foundation’s administrator, said Monday.

“Our 2012 release broke the previous assumption that Bali starlings could only survive in a habitat similar to that of the West Bali National Park. We therefore decided to release them once again in Sibang,” she told Bali Daily.

Both Begawan Foundation and the Sibang community have agreed to install signs promoting protection of the species at several locations across the village’s seven banjar (customary hamlets).

“We’re voluntarily committed to support the conservation effort of Begawan Foundation, and we have discussed this with all heads of banjar,” said I Gusti Ngurah Agung Watusila, king of Sibang.

Monitoring of free birds has shown that there is sufficient food, water and natural nesting places for them to adapt readily to the local habitat.

As the birds are flying within the grounds of Green School, observation is undertaken daily, and has shown that Bali starlings have no fear of being near buildings and gardens, and in fact take advantage of the situation, finding readily available sources of food and shelter.

“It is clear that the Bali starling can survive in any habitat that has sufficient food and nesting opportunities, as long as they are not threatened by humans or other local predators,” Tasya said.

The foundation plans to release 10 Bali starlings this year during a series of events involving students and local communities.

After the April 18 release, the second release this year is scheduled for June 17, to coincide with the Green School’s graduation ceremony. A pair of birds will be released into the wild on this occasion.

The final release for 2014 will take place in October, involving four of the species.

In addition to Sibang, the foundation also plans to designate an area in Manggis, Karangasem, to be a conservation zone for the birds hailed as the mascot of Bali province.

A breeding site was built late last year within the Amankila resort, which is similar to the one built in Green School.

Bali starlings have been registered as an endangered bird species by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) since 1970, when numbers were reduced significantly by both poaching and loss of habitat.

“But thanks to initiatives from various parties, like Begawan Foundation, to conserve this species the population has begun to recover in its habitat,” said I Ketut Catur Marbawa, BKSDA Bali’s head of conservation division.

“Even now, trading in Bali starlings is legal,” he added, explaining that in the early 2000s, the price of one starling could reach Rp 20 million (US$1,744), but now the price had decreased.

For Begawan Foundation, support from international zoos, including Chester Zoo and Waddesdon Manor Aviary in the UK, Cologne Zoo in Germany and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, has assisted in ensuring that its breeding and release program could continue to grow.

The foundation was established in 1999 by Bradley and Debbie Gardner, with the Bali starling conservation project becoming its first initiative, aimed at reintroducing the beautiful species and saving it from the real threat of extinction.

After successfully breeding the birds between 1999 and 2005, the foundation released 65 birds in Nusa Penida in 2006 and 2007. In 2010, the foundation brought back its remaining captive stock, along with their enclosures, to the foundation’s breeding site and recommenced its breeding program.

Prior to their release into the wild, the birds are usually tagged with colored rings to record their movements on a daily basis. Nest boxes placed in large nearby trees provide homes for the released Bali starlings to lay their eggs and begin a new small flock in the area.

With nest boxes, food and water available within the breeding area, the birds are expected to stay close to home, where they can continue to be observed and monitored by the foundation’s staff, as well as by Green School students and staff and the local community.

These birds have been paired with local Bali starlings and used purely for breeding, to strengthen the Bali starling bloodlines, with their offspring marked for future release programs in Bali.

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