Wildlife trade endangering birds in Brunei

National 3 minutes, 21 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

WILDLIFE trade is threatening the existence of birds in Brunei as over 20 per cent of birds sold in markets die during the transport process.

Mohd Vol Hj Momin, Brunei’s first bird race director, said along with declining quality of habitat and environmental damage, wild bird trading has become a serious threat to the sustainability of birds.

“We should be aware that wild bird trading should be brought to an end, and that buying must stop.

“Wildlife trade is incredibly cruel as more than 95 per cent of birds sold in the market are catches from nature and not bred from captivity,” he told The Brunei Times in a recent interview.

He added that about 60 per cent of birds that are traded on the market are rare and protected by law.

“By refusing to buy from these people and spreading awareness of it, the business will decline and the lives of these birds will (subsequently) be saved,” Mohd Vol said.

Earlier in August this year, birds were found openly sold for as high as hundreds of dollars at Jerudong Beach.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources’ Widllife Division had said all imported animals must be approved by the ministry.

According to the Tourism Development Department, Brunei is home to 622 species of birds - of which 49 are local only to Borneo - making Brunei rainforests one of the world’s most species rich habitat.

However, only 34 animal species are currently listed in the Wildlife Protection Act. It was reported in 2012 that the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources would revise the Act as it was last amended in 1984.

Mohd Vol said development and environmental damage does not only affect birds, but also other wildlife species.

“With growing development in Brunei, these (project) implementation sometimes forget an important aspect - the green surrounding.”

“With the lack of food and non-conducive habitat, non-migrating birds would not be able to feed and reproduce, and will eventually become extinct. This will not only amount by only a dozen but hundreds and even thousands,” he added.

Another problem is pollution, he said. “The irresponsible disposal of garbage and industrial waste into the rivers, for example, has a disastrous effect on birds that depend on the river for food.”

He said bird species such as kingfishers, herons and eagles depend on the river for food.

“If the rivers are polluted, these birds will be stuck with two options; they either migrate or try hard to survive and eventually die.”

Mohd Vol said the first Brunei Darussalam Bird Race that took place in September was organised as a measure to prevent the extinction of wild birds.

A hit among locals, the race was held to promote bird-watching tourism as well as promote nature conservation in the country.

“Birdwatching should be adopted by the locals especially the younger generation. This will make them more aware of the creatures and also take part in conserving them.”

Among the 26 birding enthusiasts who participated in the race was 14-year-old Gan Ken Ji.

Interested in photography, Gan said he wanted to try a new experience by taking pictures of birds.

Sighting six species during the race, he said the overall experience was great and believed the race would help conserve the environment.

“If this goes on for a long time, not only can we see more birds, but other animals as well.”

An outreach programme to educate young children has also been organised, said Mohd Vol.

“We want to do presentations in schools to show how beautiful our birds are and why we should preserve them. We have already received a few requests – which will commence after the exam period.”

There are 11 listed bird-watching areas in the sultanate. In Brunei-Muara, the areas are Serasa, Tasek Lama, Damuan, Berakas and Wasan rice field.

Other areas are Kampung Sungai Burong and Tasek Merimbun National Park in Tutong, and Kuala Balai and Seria in Belait district.

The Ulu Temburong National Park and Peradayan have also been identified as bird-watching destinations.

The Brunei Times