- About 48 of the 108 species observed in Singapore’s bird markets were listed in either CITES Appendix I or II, which means that their international trade is restricted.
- Unfortunately, most birds being sold in the markets are not listed in CITES, meaning that these birds are not subject to international regulations.
- Information about the harvesting, breeding, and trading of animals in Singapore is very hard to obtain, making it difficult to ascertain the impact of the trade on the birds’ wild populations.
Singapore has historically been a major hub for bird trade. But the trade, largely poorly managed, threatens exotic species, according to a new study.
A new survey by the wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC has found that most of the birds being sold in Singapore’s bird markets are non-native species.
In just four days, TRAFFIC team members recorded more than 14,000 birds for sale in just 28 pet shops — an average of over 500 birds per shop. About 80 percent of these individuals were not native to Singapore, researchers report in the new study Songsters of Singapore: An Overview of the Bird Species in Singapore Pet Shops. In fact, six of the top 10 most heavily traded species were exotic, about 35 percent originating from the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and another 31 percent originating from Central and South America.
“The volume of birds in Singapore’s birds markets are comparable to those in Indonesia, although the majority in Singapore are non-native species, hence the need to be particularly vigilant about the impacts of trade elsewhere in Asia and beyond,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Program Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
The oriental white-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus), with nearly 6,500 individuals on display, was the most commonly sold bird in these markets. This striking yellow bird with white-rimmed eyes was once native to Singapore, but has been almost wiped out due to habitat loss and trapping for the bird trade.
“The presence of thousands of Oriental White-eyes in Singapore’s bird markets is a poignant reminder of the dangers of persistent over harvesting and poorly managed trade,” Krishnasamy said. “Singapore lost its Oriental White-eyes largely through excessive trapping, which should have hoisted a red flag warning that the ongoing trade will impose the same fate on this and other species elsewhere until there are no more left.”
Some of the birds observed were listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that their global trade is restricted. Seven of the 108 species observed in Singapore’s pet markets were listed in CITES Appendix I, while 41 were listed in CITES Appendix II. However, the team could not pinpoint the source of these CITES-listed species — whether they were bred in captivity or caught from the wild — making it difficult to determine if the trade in these birds is legal.
Unfortunately, most birds being sold in the markets are not listed in CITES, meaning that these birds are not subject to international regulations. Moreover, information about the harvesting, breeding, and trading of animals in Singapore is very hard to obtain, the TRAFFIC team said, making it difficult to ascertain the impact of the trade on the birds’ wild populations.
Among the birds observed, some are currently listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List. These include one critically endangered species, the yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea), 11 near threatened species, eight vulnerable species, and four endangered species, including the African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), the lilac-crowned Amazon (Amazona finschi), the straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), and the sun parakeet (Aratinga solstitialis).
The TRAFFIC report advocates improved transparency and availability of trade data, including details on CITES-listed species, captive breeding activities in Singapore, and any quotas that the government has set for trade.
The TRAFFIC team also calls for members of the public to report suspected wildlife crime to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), Singapore’s CITES Management Authority, or through TRAFFIC’s Wildlife Witness App.
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