Bali has launched a breeding program to increase the population of the endangered Bali Starling (Leucopsar rothschildi) in West Bali National Park in Jembrana regency on the western tip of the island.
The program, called “breeding loan”, involves 12 breeders from nearby Sumber Klampok village, who each received 30 starlings — 15 male and 15 female — from the Association of Starling Conservationists (APCB) from Bogor, West Java.
To join the program the breeders were required to put up a cow each as collateral in case all the birds died. In such an event, a breeder would owe the APCB one cow.
If successful, the breeders are obliged to release 10 percent of the brood into the national park, but would own the other 90 percent to sell off privately.
Governor Made Mangku Pastika officially launched the program on Thursday, but the breeding began a few weeks ago.
The governor said the program aimed to increase the population of the endangered bird and also involve local people in wildlife conservation to raise awareness about Bali’s endemic bird.
“We should not allow this endemic bird to become extinct in our own land. That’s why we should enhance our conservation efforts,” the governor said.
APCB chairman Tony Sumampau said the association expected that the breeders would do their best to conserve and breed the starlings.
“If this breeding program works, the population will increase, and it will attract tourists to Sumber Klampok village and the West Bali National Park as an eco-tourism destination, with the Bali Starling as the main attraction,” he said.
The Bali Starling in West Bali National Park faces several threats, including the expanding populations of their natural predators: Eagles, snakes and lizards.
Previous breeding efforts were unable to adapt the birds bred in captivity to life in the wild.
“This species is very susceptible to the changing weather, which also affects their food availability. They also have many predators,” Suparno, a national park ranger, said, adding that the park rangers often found the remains of Bali Starlings that had been killed by predators.
He said the birds were no longer threatened by hunting. Before the bird was named an endangered species, the species was a common target of bird hunters because of their colorful feathers and attractive call.
The species occupies only a number of small areas in the 19,000-hectare national park, and is most commonly found at the Brumbun and Tegal Bunder breeding sites.
Currently, there are only 37 starlings in Brumbun and 147 in Tegal Bunder, according to data from the Bali forestry agency.
“The good thing is that some people are now aware of the need to save this species through breeding sites,” Suparno said, citing breeding sites on Nusa Penida island and in Gianyar, both outside of the national park.
To help the birds adapt to the wild, the breeding sites are built to simulate the bird’s natural habitat, he said.