New and Unexpected Directions to Save the Abbotti Cockatoo from Extinction

New and Unexpected Directions to Save the Abbotti Cockatoo from Extinction

Dec 1, 2015

by Stewart Metz, Associate Director, Indonesian Parrot Project

As most of you are aware, Abbotti cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea abbotti) were and still are, one of the rarest and most threatened cockatoos in the world. They are now only found on Masakambing Island in the Masalembu Archipelago. The non-stop decline in their population reached a low of 5 individuals in 1997 and they seemed on their way to extinction.

The population of Abbotti cockatoos on Masakambing Island. Line and dots in black to the left were derived from several, outside reports within Indonesia. The lines and dots to right represent work of IPP in collaboration with KKI.

The population of Abbotti cockatoos on Masakambing Island. Line and dots in black to the left were derived from several, outside reports within Indonesia. The lines and dots to right represent work of IPP in collaboration with KKI.

Trapping was the major factor in the 1980’s and 90’s. Oilmen and trappers from Bali and Sumbawa captured Abbotti cockatoos by the hundreds, leading to precipitous drops in their numbers. In 2007, the Indonesian Parrot Project began a dedicated program to reverse this trend using multiple approaches previously described in detail in earlier issues of “Notes from the Field.” This first required earning the trust of the village chief and villagers who, in turn, mounted a successful anti-smuggling campaign.

This fact was to become especially important later on. The Program included passing the first true “perdes” (laws) to protect Abbotti cockatoos; and continuation of the “Conservation-Awareness-and Pride” program for the schoolchildren on Masakambing, led by our colleagues Dudi Nandika and Dwi Agustina, leaders of Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia.

The latter was designed to stir their excitement and participation in the program, and pride in “their” cockatoo-thereby promising their conservation to future generations.

Through our program, the number of birds has increased to over 22 cockatoos.

While these initial results are exciting as a first step, it is important to keep in mind that they only suggest that the decline might be halted for longer time periods. For several reasons, the absolute number of individuals has a very long way to go before a significant step forward in the conservation of these birds can be claimed . There are many factors that are causing this decline especially as it relates to habitat and nesting sites.

Due to heavy winds and the fact that Abbotti nest in dead trees, sadly there have been casualties. In 2013 a young Abbotti chick fell to the ground from his nest, and survived the fall. In the past he probably would have been left there to die. Instead a local villager gently picked the chick up and returned him to his nest. (The post photo shows the local man who found the Abbotti chick and the King.)

The chick was okay and was able to return to its wild family. So what might this all mean? That our programs have been successful and conservation of these birds has resonated throughout the local community.

This suggestion, seen in a single cockatoo, was supported by many other people in the village. In return for their assistance in protecting their cockatoos we needed to find a program through which the villagers of Masakambing would receive something of value to them, money or otherwise, in a sustainable fashion.

Photo by Dudi Nandika

Photo by Dudi Nandika

Read more and see photos in the archived Newsletter here, including “The Significant Role of Habitat”.

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