Java Sparrows took to the skies over Nusa Penida on Sunday, in an event to mark the fifth anniversary of animal conservation efforts on the island by the Friends of National Parks Foundation (FNPF) and islanders.
The birds were rescued from the Denpasar Bird Market and rehabilitated ahead of their flight to freedom. The local trade in the colorful species is legal.
Releasing 100 of the tiny birds, which are endemic to Bali and Java, highlighted the FNPF’s success in bird conservation efforts across the island, members said.
The Java Sparrows, listed as vulnerable by Birdlife, join hundreds of endangered Bali Starlings that have been successfully breeding on Nusa Penida for the past five years under the protection of Nusa Penida communities.
FNPF founder veterinarian Bayu Wirayudha, a veterinarian, said the Nusa Penida bird sanctuary program, which included the Bali Starling protection program, began in 2004 with talks between all Nusa Penida villages.
The once common white bird with distinctive blue markings is under constant threat in
Bali from poachers.
Despite being a protected species, the Bali Starling population in Bali remains under threat, prompting the FNPF to turn to Nusa Penida to establish a sanctuary for the birds.
“The first Bali Starlings were released in 2006 following two years of discussions and agreements with villages across the island. We spent those two years establishing traditional regulations and agreements across the island,” Bayu said at Ngurah Rai International Airport on Friday, where he collected 10 Bali Starling chicks flown in from a registered breeder in Bandung.
The juvenile birds will spend the next five months at a rehabilitation center in Nusa Penida before being released into the wild.
Sunday’s release in Nusa Penida of the Java Sparrows was the largest release of these small passerines to date.
“There has been no bird release like this before. We have done experimental releases of 10 to 15 birds in the past to ensure the Java Sparrow can survive the in island’s environment, but as they are brightly colored small birds, they are very visible to predators, so they need to be in large flocks to make it harder for predators to catch them,” Bayu said ahead of the release.
The Java Sparrow is a common sight in certain parts of Indonesia and in Hawaii, but it is on the verge of disappearing from its home territory of Bali and Java.