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Papua governor takes birds-of-paradise off the market

A lesser bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea minor) in eastern Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

  • Papua Governor Lukas Enembe declaring the new policy earlier this month.
  • The birds are threatened by hunting as well as the ongoing destruction of their forest habitat as agribusiness expands in the region.
  • Indigenous communities can still use bird parts in their traditional ceremonies.

JAYAPURA, Indonesia — In an attempt to conserve the birds-of-paradise for which the region is famous, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe has banned the use of their body parts in anything other than traditional ceremonies.

Indonesia’s half of New Guinea. composed of Papua and West Papua provinces. Image by Mandavi via Wikimedia Commons.

Hunting has helped push some paradise birds — members of the family Paradisaeidae — to the brink of extinction. Historically, indigenous groups on Indonesia’s half of New Guinea island have used the birds’ colorful feathers in their rituals and traditional dress.

Meanwhile, others turn their parts into souvenirs, sold to tourists or handed out by local officials at events.

Last November, a college student in Papua sparked an outcry after she posted pictures of herself holding a dead bird-of-paradise, known locally as cendrawasih, and a hunting rifle.

Governor Enembe enshrined the ban in a circular letter, a mechanism typically used to support existing laws. The provincial administration plans to issue a regulation specifying the consequences for violating the ban, according to Papua Regional Secretary Hery Dosinaen. Until then, the government will use the circular to raid stores selling products made from real bird-of-paradise parts.

The Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) inhabits the forests of southern and eastern New Guinea. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

In addition to raising awareness about the animal’s protected status, the policy is expected to give Papua’s creative industries a nudge by turning craftspeople onto artificial bird parts.

Alex Waisimon, who runs birdwatching tours out of Jayapura, the provincial capital, welcomed the ban: Cendrawasih is a bird from paradise that God created for us to protect together,” he said.

But he recognized a greater threat than hunting: the destruction of the birds’ forest habitat.

Indonesia’s rapid deforestation has long been concentrated on Sumatra and Borneo islands in the archipelago country’s west. But forest loss in the Papua region appears to be on the rise.

Korean-Indonesian conglomerate Korindo is one firm expanding there. The oil palm planter was recently the subject of a NGO report that said it was responsible for 30,000 hectares of deforestation and nearly 900 fire hotspots since 2013. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has said it is investigating the company.

Banner image: A lesser bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea minor) in eastern Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

This story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and was first published on our Indonesian site on June 20, 2017.

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