Monitor Songbird Lab

About the lab

Monitor Songbird Lab Monitor’s main aim is to make relevant, evidence-based, information on songbird trade and conservation issues available to stakeholders, decision makers and conservation organizations by exposing captive breeding “laundry” operations, scrutinizing the implementation and effectiveness of legislation, conventions, policies and other regulatory tools, highlighting the abuses of regulatory frameworks, and more. The Monitor Songbird Lab is headed by Boyd Leupen of Monitor and includes Simon Bruslund from the Silent Forest Group and Monitor Executive Director Chris Shepherd in the coordination group.

Featured projects (4)

Documenting unstainable and unregulated trade in a threatened songbird species First Autor: Sarah Heinrich
Collecting and standardizing conservation relevant data across databases for all passerine species, to prioritize species for conservation action.
Obtaining an understanding of what drives the demands and supply for live caged birds in Indonesia to assist in finding the best solution for conservation

Featured research (11)

Unsustainable commercial exploitation poses a serious threat to many of Vietnam's native bird species. Here we report on a survey of the country's online bird trade, conducted across four major online platforms. Between 9 March and 3 April 2020, a total of 434 posts were recorded, accounting for 834 individuals of at least 50 species, ten of which have not been recorded in Vietnamese trade before. Ninety-two percent of the recorded species were native to Vietnam and 18% (n=9) of the species, accounting for 15% (n=115) of the recorded individuals, are protected under Vietnamese law. Recorded prices ranged between VND16,667 (~US$0.7) and VND7 million (~US$303), depending on the species and on a bird's specific singing qualities. The highest trade numbers were found on Chợ Tốt (186 posts, 335 birds), followed by Facebook (161 posts, 325 birds), Chợ Vinh (82 posts, 169 birds) and Chim Cảnh Đất Việt (5 posts, 5 birds). The scale of the observed trade appears to confirm a partial shift towards online platforms in Vietnam's bird trade, or at least an increase in the use of online platforms to trade wild birds. In anticipation of a further development of this trend, we urge the Government of Vietnam to improve regulations and to take greater enforcement action against illegal online trading practices.
Bird keeping is deeply rooted in Indonesian culture and markets selling large numbers of birds are found across the country. We examined bird markets in Mataram on the island of Lombok. Across five market visits, 10,326 birds of 108 species were observed, with 18 of these species being nationally protected and 10 having been assessed as globally threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Observed protected species, as well as non-protected species with no or exceeded harvest quotas accounted for a total of 8,586 (83.1%) illegally traded birds. In terms of trade volume, 83% (n=8,347) of the recorded Indonesian birds were native to Lombok, suggesting that many of the birds for sale were sourced locally. However, 63% (n=65) of the encountered Indonesian species were not native to Lombok, confirming previously described intra-national bird trade flows between the Indonesian islands. We found a strong positive relation between a species’ body size and its asking price. Current legislation in Indonesia is sufficient to eradicate the open trade in illegally sourced and/or protected species. Improved enforcement of these laws, in combination with strategic demand reduction efforts, is needed to curb illegal and unsustainable bird trade in the country.
The elusive and Critically Endangered silvery pigeon Columba argentina is only found on small offshore islands in western Indonesia and Malaysia. Historically, trade records have suggested that, in addition to habitat degradation and invasive predators, commercial exploitation could be a threat to the species. The current study confirms this to be the case, with a relatively high volume of silvery pigeons found offered for sale on social media platforms in Indonesia between October and December 2021. The trade numbers (at least 10 individuals) observed within this short period exceeded 20% of the global silvery pigeon population according to the latest Red List assessment, suggesting that actual population numbers may be larger than previously thought but also confirming that trade poses a considerable threat. Some of the recorded posts were in new areas within the species’ presumed range, further suggesting that the population may be slightly larger than hitherto assessed. The reported trade observations are reason for grave concern, particularly given the potential interest of international collectors which could further drive demand and increase prices. Due to the locations of the observed online trade we recommend timely field surveys to confirm the species’ presence and current status, particularly in the Riau-Lingga island group, as well as the development of a species conservation action plan to catalyse local and regional efforts to tackle the current illegal trade and work towards the regulation of international trade.
Bird trade has led to increasing endangerment of species throughout South-East Asia. An opportunistic survey of two bird markets in Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, highlights continuing problems with illegal trade. In June 2019, a total of 63 species, accounting for 6,352 birds, were observed in two Makassar bird markets. The majority of the birds observed were native to Indonesia, but not necessarily native to Sulawesi, illustrating the movement of birds for commercial trade across the archipelago. Fifteen of the species observed are protected under Indonesian legislation, and the vast majority of the rest were likely to have been taken from the wild outside of Indonesia’s annual harvest and trade quota system. Such illegal trade is a major contributing driver to the decline in wild populations and undermines national legislation and conservation efforts.
In this article we report on observations of online trade in Critically Endangered Grey-backed Mynas (Acridotheres tricolor) from Baluran Nation Park, East Java, Indonesia. Between 19 and 24 different "locally poached" individuals of the species were recorded for trade on social media between April 2020 and March 2021. Considering the precarious conservation status of the species, these records are highly alarming and warrant strong enforcement action, as well as patrolling efforts and the establishment of rapid reporting systems by local NGOs.

Lab head

Boyd Leupen

Members (6)

Sarah Heinrich
  • University of Adelaide
Simon Bruslund
  • Marlow Birdpark
Karlina Indraswari
  • The University of Queensland
Sicily Fiennes
  • University of Leeds
Sunny Nelson
  • Lincoln Park Zoo