Young Conservationists in IPP “Introduce” Parrots to a New Generation of Indonesians

Young Conservationists in IPP “Introduce” Parrots to a New Generation of Indonesians

Apr 6, 2007

Notes from the Field

By Stewart Metz, Director

As we mentioned in the last “Notes from the Field”, the Indonesian Parrot Project now has an official equivalent in Indonesia—a perkumpulan (or non- governmental organization = “NGO”) called Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia (Cockatoo Conservation, Indonesia). However, this is much more than just coming up with a new name and a new organization. “KKI” has local Indonesian people among its leadership and on its Board of Directors, and it can recruit young Indonesian students to carry out its mission and carry forth our message. What message? and why is this so critically important in Indonesia?

It is not often appreciated that even when the exportation of parrots from Indonesia was legal, 80% of illegally trapped birds remained within Indonesia. Parrots and cockatoos, which are trapped in the poor regions of the East (see Notes from the Field, Volume #1), often end up in the houses of the affluent in the West, especially on the island of Java. The keeping of pet birds is widespread; cage birds are felt to bring good luck and be a sign of wealth and prestige. The fact that keeping a protected bird is illegal, only adds to the sense of prestige, because it implies that the owner either has protection from the authorities, or is one of them!

Few school children in Java are felt to have seen a wild parrot, although this has not been formally quantified, and certainly it would be rare for any schoolchild in the western regions to go to the ‘exotic ‘ places where parrots are found. Consequently, there is presumably, little or no knowledge about, or pride in, Indonesia’s wonderful parrots, and consequently no concept about their extinction or conservation. And therefore, one would expect that children would have little concern if their parents were to bring home an endangered animal from the infamous bird markets. Trying to stop trapping and smuggling is only a band- aid. Long-term protection of these treasures will require a change in attitudes towards birds in general, and towards parrots in particular.

Meet Dudi Nandika

Dudi Nandika graduated in 2005 with a degree in Biology from As-Syafi’iyah Islamic University in Jakarta. He carried out a beautiful study of the critically endangered sulphurea subspecies of the Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo which was published in PsittaScene, the magazine of the World Parrot Trust. The formation of Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia would not have been possible without Dudi and he is one of its Founders and is on the Board of Directors as Secretary.

Meet Dwi Agustina

Dwi Agustina graduated with Dudi in 2005, also with a degree in Biology, receiving the award as ” Best Student III” in the University in 2006. She carried out a study of the population of the Sulawesi Hawk-Eagle as her research project. Dwi is also on the Board of Directors of KKI as Program Coordinator.

The Program in Java

The program will focus on the Jabotabek area of Java. This is a very large area which is comprised of Jakarta, and the surrounding areas of Bogor, Bekasi and Tangerang. Dudi and Dwi are attempting to change attitudes about birds in the schools of this area by putting on presentations about birds and parrots. Their tools include discussions; videos; PowerPoint presentations; photo slideshows; and storytelling using drawing of parrots and games, all depending on the age of the students. The stories are not pre-written but rather, are interactive with the younger students, who create the story lines as they go.

Then they talk (in basic terms )about the nature/causes/ and effects of the illegal bird trade, the need for conservation, and how it can be achieved. Students are given questionnaires to assess their knowledge and attitudes before and then again after each class. They also receive leaflets, posters and other items to take home with them to share and discuss with their parents.

In the near-future, class trips for bird watching will be initiated, something about which students have already expressed considerable enthusiasm.

Already, Some Startling Results

Dudi and Dwi have already visited one junior high school ( 80-90 children participated for 2 hours) and one elementary school (ages 7-11 yrs; 4 sessions of 90 mins totalling 800 students!). Analyses of preliminary (same day) questionnaires, with a limited number of responders, have revealed already some findings which were even more striking than we had expected:

  • 82% of male students and 30% of female students indicated that they had a pet bird at home . These were mostly songbirds (Each category had many abstentions).
  • The commonest reason to have a pet bird was ‘good song’
  • Only about 20% knew that birds could spread disease to humans
  • Less than 1 in 8 students knew what a “parrot” was
  • Birdwatching: Male students were evenly split between never having gone birdwatching (or) if they had, only going to zoos, parks and gardens. This for them, was as close as they had come to “the wild.”
  • Birdwatching: Female students virtually never had gone birdwatching.
  • But when they do see a bird in the wild, some said that they feel “happy” or “beautiful” or “proud”; 25% said they felt “pity” seeing a bird in a cage

After the presentations, about 80% of male students said they now knew something about parrots and that they are protected by law–but (not at all surprisingly) they didn’t yet grasp the concept of poaching or conservation. Interestingly , female students seemed more moved by the presentations, with 80% answering “yes” to the question: ” Do you want to inspire others and actively participate in the parrot conservation effort?”. They seemed especially saddened by putting birds in a cage where they could no longer fly.

Dudi and Dwi have written a grant application to IdeaWild to try to get funding to buy binoculars and a spotting scope to take students bird-watching.

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