White Cockatoo Poaching Thrives to Meet Demands from Sulawesi and the Philippines

Poaching and trade of the White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) and Chattering Lory (Lorius garrulus) is still high in North Maluku, particularly in South Halmahera, North Maluku, Indonesia. Thousands of birds are captured from their natural habitat and smuggled to Java, Sulawesi, and the Philippines.

This fact arose after PROFAUNA Indonesia conducted a series of field investigation during November 2016-January 2017. PROFAUNA's team visited at least 50 villages in South Halmahera to collect updated information on the poaching of the White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) and Chattering Lory (Lorius garrulus). The result shows that there are active poachers in 17 out of 50 villages.

Poaching of the White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) and Chattering Lory (Lorius garrulus) mostly takes place in villages in Bacan Island, Obi Island, and Gane (Halmahera Island). Most of the poachers are primarily farmers, thus capturing birds only acts as their side job.

"Villagers only capture birds occasionally to supply demands from Ternate, North Sulawesi, and the Philippines," explained Rosek Nursahid, the Chairman of PROFAUNA Indonesia.

The highest number of active poachers comes from Gane. There are approximately 60 poachers, living in 6 districts. The most poached parrot species in Gane are the White Cockatoo and Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus); the latter being a protected species.

Meanwhile, there are approximately 15 poachers in Obi and 15 others in Bacan. In Obi, poachers mainly target the Chattering Lory, and in Bacan all three species (White Cockatoo, Chattering Lory, and Eclectus Parrot) are targeted by poachers.

Most of the poachers only capture birds when there is demand from buyers, with Gane as most active area because there are collectors and investors with a network reaching Bitung, Sulawesi, up to the Philippines.

Thousand Birds Taken from the Wild

In total, there are 3,225 individuals of parrots captured in Gane, Bacan, and Obi in one month including the White Cockatoo, Chattering Lory, and Eclectus Parrot. This figure fairly reflects the state of parrot poaching in South Halmahera.

Although this does not mean that every month there are 3,225 parrots being captured by poachers.This depends on whether there is demand from collectors. This number is an assumption made if all poachers capture birds to the maximum amount of their capability to meet the demands from collectors.

In general, there are two methods used to capture parrots in South Halmahera: snare and gum. Both are old methods that have been used for the past two decades.

On the poachers' level, the birds' price is relatively cheap. A White Cockatoo is worth IDR 200,000 while the Chattering Lory is worth IDR 150,000. These prices will escalate drastically when the birds arrive in Java. A White Cockatoo is usually sold for IDR 3.5 million while the Chattering Lories are usually offered for IDR 2 million.

Need Urgent Protection

Considering the high poaching rate, PROFAUNA urges the government to immediately assign protection status for both White Cockatoo and Chattering Lory.

"It has been years that PROFAUNA been promoting protection status for these species. We are hoping that the White Cockatoo and Chattering Lory can be soon included in the list of protected wildlife species," added Rosek.

Rosek, who took part in PROFAUNA's investigation on parrot poaching and trade in 2001, 2007, and 2017 also said that it remains unclear why the government is seemingly unresponsive towards parrot protection issues, especially concerning these two species which have long met all criteria to be assigned a protected status.

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ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats