Thursday, 16 April 2009

Developments regarding a certification system for captive-bred birds in Indonesia

Paul Jepson, Made Sri Prana, Sujatnika and Fahrul Amama

TRAFFIC Bulletin Vol. 22 No. 1 (2008)


The hugely popular Indonesian pastime of keeping wild birds for pets is threatening the long-term survival of many songbird species on the islands of Java and Bali (BirdLife International, 2001; Jepson and Ladle, 2006). In response to this threat, the authors have been working with leaders of the songbird-keeping fraternity to develop a non State, market-based governance approach to guide consumer preferences in Indonesia away from wild-caught birds towards captive-bred alternatives. A key component of this approach is empowering consumer choice through the establishment of a labelling system to certify bird-breeding facilities in Indonesia. This paper reports on the development and initial design of the certification tool. The broader approach to governing includes planned activities to: i) market captive-bred birds as more desirable on ethical and quality grounds; ii) increase the supply of captive-bred birds; iii) a social marketing campaign to encourage ethical and sustainable bird purchasing choices (and dissuade casual purchase of birds); and, iv) promote the prestige of captive-bred ‘ring class’(classes of birds that are captive bird and hence ringed) birds at songbird competitions.

The authors' design of this system of governing is informed by a research project that comprised two phases: 1) a questionnaire survey and media analysis to generate overview data on the scale and attributes of bird-keeping and scope out the key actors, networks and motivations? that need to be influenced, and 2) in-depth interviews and workshops that aimed to reveal insights on the contemporary culture of bird keeping in Indonesia and identify and engage influential actors within the bird-keeper fraternity in the development of A a suitable and effective policy approach.

Bird-keeping and breeding in Java and Bali

Bird keeping is hugely popular in Java and Bali. In the six cities surveyed during April 2006, 35.7% (636 out of 1781 households surveyed) of households kept a bird and 57.6% had kept a bird in the last 10 years. A projected 1.45 million households keep an estimated 2.15 million wild-caught birds (Jepson and Ladle, in press).

Entering songbirds into competitions is a popular recreation in Java and Bali (and now gaining popularity in Kalimantan and Sumatra). Five of the nine species regularly found in competition are among the ten commonest species kept, namely Canary Serinus canarius, Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach, Orange-headed Thrush Zoothera citrina, White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus, and Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis (Jepson, 2008)

Preliminary projections arising from the survey suggest that songbird keepers contribute approximately €50 million to the economy of these six cities. Of this, ca €31.6 million is produced by the sale and trading of birds, ca €7.5 million from the collection, breeding and sale of live food (ants eggs, worms, crickets) and ca €5.6 million from the manufacture and selling of bird cages. This figure does not include other aspects of the hobby which may make significant economic and employment contributions, namely bird markets, song contests and bird-breeding enterprises (Jepson, Ladle and Sujatnika, in prep).

Species such as Canary, Zebra Dove Geopelia striata and lovebirds Agapornis are bred in large numbers. The rise in popularity of songbird keeping since the mid-1990s, combined with declining wild populations, is resulting in a growth in the number of songbird breeders. Breeders now produce species such as Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus, White-rumped Shama, Chestnut-capped Thrush Zoothera interpres, Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra, Bali Starling Leucopsar rothschildi, and Black-winged Starling Sturnus melanopterus in increasing numbers. Several of this species are classed as threatened and continue to be taen from the wild (shepard 2006). Indeed supplies white-rumped shama increased as the expansion of illegal logging in the late 1990s opened new areas for trapping. at present the picture concerning aquistion of breeding stock is complex. most breeders prefer to exchange breeding stock within their networks but many will buy wild caught birds on occasions. some of these such as shamas may be recently taken from the wild whilst others notablly long-lived species such as straw-headed bulbul are purchased from bird-kepers and may have been caught from the wild up to 20 years previously.

Five general business models for breeding birds were identified during the survey: i) independent breeder; ii) breeder with out-sourcing; iii) breeder association; iv) village co-operative and v) commercial-scale bird farm. In addition, huge numbers of ‘amateur’ bird-keepers breed and sell the common domestic species: Canary, lovebirds and Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus. The first three types of enterprises are the locus [source?] of innovation on techniques to breed and rear songbirds. Central to each is a technically adept individual who has a passion for developing new breeding and husbandry techniques. New techniques are shared between breeders at workshops convened by Pelestari Burung Indonesia (PBI). These business modules are suited to rapid expansion and scaling up.

Important aspects of the bird-keeping hobby are governed by PBI. For instance, since the 1980s, PBI has trained and accredited songbird competition judges and most competitions seek PBI endorsement (use of their logo) as this brings status and an assurance of impartiality and integrity to their event. More recently, PBI has been actively expanding its breeder membership and organizing workshops and training events to promote knowledge-sharing and the creation of active breeder networks.

Developing a bird a certification system

The questionnaire survey revealed positive or ambivalent attitudes towards certification among bird keepers. The authors' research identified six communities of practice within and interacting with bird keeping, namely: i) organizers of songbird contests and prominent hobbyists; ii) breeders and breeder associations; iii) manufacturers of bird food; iv) journalists and editors in the bird-keeper media; v) the governing committee of PBI; and vi) conservationists within the international bird conservation community associated with Burung Indonesia (BirdLife Indonesia).

Representatives of each community came together in a series of three regional workshops held in Yogyakarta (Central Java), Surabaya (East Java) and Jakarta (West Java) during December 2007. The workshops were independently facilitated by the social enterprise, Aksenta, who specialize in strategy facilitation, certification and accreditation. The goal of the workshops was to prepare the public for the concept of certification, build trust and communication between different communities of practice and identify points in bird supply chains that could be certified.

Participants at these workshops were enthusiastic about the idea of certification and proposed that a working group be formed to work up the details. The working group met in February and March 2008. Their deliberations were informed by a review of international certification schemes, relevant Indonesian law and Aksenta experience of ISO9000 (a family of standards for quality management systems), forest and coffee certification. The Species Unit with the Department of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PHKA) were kept informed of progress but not directly involved in the process.

Elements of a proposed certification system

The certification systems will focus on songbirds with the following agreed objectives: 1) to guarantee the captive-bred status of birds produced by certified breeding facilities; 2) to promote best practice in bird breeding both in terms of quality, welfare and quantity; 3) to accelerate the replacement process of wild-caught birds with captive-bred birds for pets or other purposes. There are three groups of songbirds with different certification requirements: i) native song birds; ii) non-native songbirds (canary and lovebird) which are bred locally; and iii) chicks of Orange-headed Thrush which are harvested from agroforests in Bali [Jepson 2008] . Developing standards and criteria for certifying the first two groups was the goal of the working groups. The object of the certification system will be the bird-breeding business unit (not the birds) and will cover all the bird breeding business models listed above. The system will focus on the production process (input–output); a measuring and monitoring system; and documentation that allows for a traceable system.

A stepwise approach to the development and introduction of certification is planned. This reflects current administrative and breeding capacity and the need to expand the number of breeders. It also aligns with the PBI policy that classes for wild-caught songbirds will be prohibited from PBI-accredited songbird contests after 2012. Initially, the songbird certification body will be hosted by PBI as a “Certification Committee”. This was approved at the PBI national meeting in March 2008 and will provide the new entity with credibility and administrative support. The Certification Committee will issue certificates to songbird breeders that have been independently audited against two basic criteria, each with indicators and standards. These are: suitability and competency of breeding facility; and assurance that birds produced are captive-bred at the facility. Auditors must complete training and pass a competency test, be registered, and agree to abide by a code of ethics. In addition, they should be knowledgeable about bird-breeding and the songbird hobby.

The intention is to fund a certification system through a combination of fees from bird breeders and sponsorship. Many breeders are small businesses so the system will be affordable but not free, pricing systems will reflects the number of breeding pairs and extent of production, and groups of breeders will be assessed during one audit. The certification committee hopes to secure additional funding from songbird contest organizers and the companies producing bird food and products.

Prognosis and next steps

The certification system outlined represents a starting point. It may change and evolve as it is introduced. The next step is to conduct pilot audits/certifications of bird breeders breeding different species in different regions of Java. There are a number of questions that still need to be thought through; for instance, if the ultimate goal is to provide consumers with a means to identify a bird of captive-bred origin (for example, with a ring) should certification extend to canary, lovebirds and budgerigars which are already bred in large numbers by bird keepers. The authors are of the opinion that this should not be the case, or should not happen because people already class these birds as ‘imports’ and semi domesticated species. They also believe it will be necessary and possible to extend certification to the harvesting of chicks as is occurring on Bali, but that different criteria and standards will be needed to control harvesting practice and stimulate breeding initiatives.

Gaining momentum for the establishment of a bird certification scheme will require the leadership and commitment of a number of people and groups within the world of bird keeping, breeding and conservation. Certification and moving to captive-bred birds supports the agendas of many interests and is not necessarily counter to others. In addition, the judges of songbird contests are already accredited by PBI so the general principle is not new within the hobby. There is a good chance that this work will translate from the conceptual stage into reality, especially if funds for some pilot certification can be secured.


BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Bird of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Jepson, P. (2008). Orange-headed thrush Zoothera citrina and the avian X-factor. Birding Asia 9:58-61.

Jepson, P., and Ladle, R. (in press). Developing New Policy Instruments to Regulate Consumption of Wild Birds: Socio-Demographic Characteristics of Bird-Keeping in Java and Bali. Oryx.

Jepson, P., and Ladle, R.J. (2006). Bird keeping in Indonesia: conservation impacts and the potential for substitution-based conservation responses. Oryx 39:442-4

Jepson, P. Ladle, RJ and Sujatnika (in prep) Re-framing bird-trade policy approaches: an economic profile of bird-keeping in Java and Bali, Indonesia

Shepherd, C.R. 2006 The bird trade in Medan, north Sumatra: an overview. Birding Asia 6: 16-24


The information summarized in this article is the result of collaborative action research involving the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Nielsen-Indonesia, Burung Indonesia, Pelestarian Burung Indonesia and Aksenta. The research was funded by Defra’s Darwin Initiative - which draws on the wealth of biodiversity expertise within the UK to help protect and enhance biodiversity around the world. The authors thank Nielsen Indonesia for their invaluable assistance with the questionnaire surveys. The methodologies underpinning the figures in this article along with precise figures will be published in a series of forthcoming articles in the academic conservation literature.

Paul Jepson, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK

Made Prana, Pelestari Burung Indonesia, co [c/o?] Taman Burung TMII, Jakarta 13560, Indonesia

Sujatnika, Aksenta, Jl. Gandaria VIII/10 Kebayoran baru, Jakarta 12130

Fahrul Amama, Burung Indonesia Jl. Dadali 32, Bogor - Indonesia


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