TRAFFIC Logo

Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 16th July 2018

Arrests in Kalimantan and Sabah for dealing in protected bird species

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, July 2018—Wildlife enforcement authorities across Borneo sent a strong message this month that trading in protected bird species will not be tolerated.


In the first case, the Indonesian Department of Environmental Law Enforcement (KLHK Gakkum)’s SPORC Brigade in West Kalimantan arrested a suspect for selling two Black-winged Mynas Acridotheres melanopterus and eight sunbirds, species protected under Government Regulation No. 7 Concerning the Preservation of Flora and Fauna, in a shop in Pontianak. 

Trading of protected species is a violation under Act No. 5 (1990) concerning Conservation of Living Resources and their Ecosystems, and could result in a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of IDR100 million (USD7000). A court hearing has been scheduled for this case. 

According to the KLHK Gakkum press release, the suspect has previously received a warning for trading in protected species, and yet persisted in doing so. 

This is a particularly important arrest because protected birds are rarely the target of enforcement efforts. It is very encouraging that Indonesian authorities are starting to turn their attention to lower profile species like birds, where traders often get away with blatant disregard of the law

Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

“A stiff punishment would set an example for traders who persist in trading protected species, regardless of how small they are,” Krishnasamy said.

Indonesia is a major source, trading hub and demand centre for the songbird trade, with TRAFFIC recording thousands of birds for sale in Indonesian bird markets. The highly sought after Black-winged Myna in particular has been trapped to near extinction in the wild. 

Often, protected species are surrendered to the authorities, though this case demonstrates the Indonesian government taking on a decisive and proactive role in tackling the illegal bird trade.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, a tip-off led the Sabah Wildlife Department to raid two premises in Kapayan, Kota Kinabalu. The owner was in possession of Schedule 2-listed protected birds, including an Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis and seven Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus.

Under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 (October 2016 amendment), the possession of Schedule 2 protected animals without a valid licence can result in a jail term of at least six months and up to 5 years, and/or a fine of MYR30,000–MYR500,000 (USD7,500 – USD125,000). 

Songbird trade in Southeast Asia has been recognised as a serious threat to the conservation and survival of many species. TRAFFIC’s inventories of bird markets in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam between 2014 and 2017 recorded more than 75,000 birds for sale.