15 Mar 2017

Rose Gelder is part of the team that raises money to help fund our conservation work around the world. In 2016 she organised three Pokémon Go events at the zoo with the proceeds going towards our projects. The first event alone raised £17,500 and the money went towards our emergency appeal to rebuild an aviary block in Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre (CCBC).

She recently visited our songbird project in Indonesia to meet the team and see how these vital funds are making an impact on the project…

“We’ve been working with Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in West Java for over six years. The centre is run by a small dedicated team who are experts in breeding several species of endangered birds, including Javan green magpie and black-winged starling.

Chester Zoo corporate partnership coordinator, Rose Gelder

Rose Gelder, Chester Zoo corporate partnership coordinator

Horrific experience

“We spent the first day in Indonesia in the capital Jakarta visiting the largest bird market in the city, Pramuka. This was a horrific experience. We saw so many familiar species living in disgusting conditions, including the Java sparrow, Asian fairy-bluebirds and the critically endangered Bali starling, all being kept in a small cage ready to be sold.

“We were confronted with the scale of the problem, as we travelled to Cikananga. Almost every house we passed on the drive had at least one small cage hanging outside, the sound of birdsong audible every time we stopped. We soon realised that you can hear birds singing beautifully in every village that we passed, but the forests we travelled through were all silent.

Bird market in Jakarta, Indonesia

We are well on our way to providing every single bird at Cikananga with this wonderful, state of the art enclosure.

Rose Gelder, corporate partnership coordinator

“Visiting CCBC was the perfect antidote to the visit to the markets. Faced with the realisation of how widespread the culture of keeping birds in cages was in Indonesia, it was lovely to meet the team who were doing everything they could to make sure the most critically endangered bird species don’t become extinct in the wild.

“CCBC is based in the middle of the rainforest, next to the village Cikananga. Surrounded by paddy fields and a few small villages, the forest is lush and dense. The aviaries are located behind a big steel fence, protected by two big guard dogs. The birds kept here are so valuable that CCBC has been the victim of repeated thefts, with people stealing the birds to sell for large sums of money. They no longer take any risks with their security.

The money we raised last year on our Pokemon event will be spent on a new aviary, the second out of four that drastically need rebuilding.

Rose Gelder, corporate partnership coordinator

Old vs new

“When we arrived at the centre we went to see their first new aviary block which had just been completed. The old wooden aviaries are rotten from the humidity and termite infestation, but the new building has been made of concrete and metal mesh with deep concrete foundations, meaning rats can’t access the enclosures and attack the birds.

“They are all around safer, cleaner and a much more beneficial environment for the birds to live in. With one out of four aviaries replaced, and a second fully paid for, we are well on our way to providing every single bird at Cikananga with this wonderful, state of the art enclosure. This will boost the breeding activities of these birds, so when reintroduction programmes are started there will be a healthy number of pairs to release into the wild, giving a greater chance of the species thriving in their new habitat.

Old aviary at Cikananga

New aviary at Cikananga

The new aviary block at CCBC will help boost breeding of critically endangered songbirds

“Hopefully our efforts won’t be too late to save these beautiful birds from extinction. With prices on their heads so high, it’s critical that we act now to protect these species remaining in the wild. There are concerns that as the Javan green magpie is no longer showing up on markets, it may well be extinct in the wild. We don’t want the other birds to suffer the same fate.

“Sitting at my desk in Chester, it’s hard to get a grasp of how desperate the situation for the songbirds is. Coming face to face with the issues, I’ve gained a much clearer understanding of how the illegal trade of these species is decimating these populations, and if we don’t act soon these birds will no longer be found in the wild, future generations won’t be able to enjoy their beautiful songs.

We urgently need to act – we can all make a difference to these wonderful birds.