10 Jun 2020
All over Indonesia the forests are falling silent because the songbirds that  once lived there are THREATENED BY EXTINCTION. We’re facing a crisis because these beautiful, remarkable and rare birds are being captured and trapped by local people to be used either in singing competitions or kept in cages as a status symbol. 

Throughout Indonesia millions of birds are kept in captivity, a tradition deeply embedded in Indonesian culture. It is believed that over 1.3 million songbirds are caught ever year! 

Understanding problems for species which are happening on the other side of the world can be a little tricky so we’ve put together this guide about the illegal bird trade. Take your learners through a journey through the bird markets of Indonesia using our resources to discover why songbirds face these threats and how you can help. 


Unfortunately illegal wildlife trade happens all over the world. Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. However there are other trades including the illegal pet trade which are just as serious for species survival. 

Start your learners off by introducing the topic of the illegal wildlife trade by having a discussion about what the following words mean. 

  • What does illegal mean?
  • What does trade mean?   

Use our glossary and word search to familiarise your learners with some of the words and terms we will be talking about.  

Download our: Sing for Songbirds Word Search & Glossary 

We also have some posters about illegal wildlife trade which will help learners to understand how big the issue is around the world.

Take a look at our: Illegal wildlife trade poster collection 


Now you are more familiar with the illegal wildlife trade it’s time to take a closer look at the songbird crisis happening right now in Indonesia and the species that are being pushed to the brink of extinction.  

But what is a songbird? Songbirds are a large group of birds called PASSERINES that range in size from tiny kinglets and sunbirds to comparatively large crows. They are mainly land birds that live in a wide variety of situations, from open grassland to forest. Songbirds can be found all over the world! 

Use our passerine activity sheet to test your knowledge. 

Download our: Passerine vs. Non passerine activity 

Its time to research some of the Indonesian songbirds that are being taken from the wild to be kept as pets. Use our fact files to learn more about these species and complete the songbird research sheet. 

Download our: Indonesian Songbird Animal Fact File Collection 

Do some more research with our: Indonesian Birds worksheet

These beautiful songbirds are being captured and either sold or kept as pets. Keeping songbirds can often make the owners money if they enter them into singing competitions. 

Listen and read along to the story of the silent forest to find out more.  

Download our: Story of the Silent Forest

Sometimes it can be hard to understand why people take animals from the wild.

What do you think?

  • Try writing from the perspective of a songbird taken from the forest.
  • Try also writing from the perspective of someone living in Indonesia. 


Now that you are an Indonesian songbird expert, we’re going on a journey to South East Asia to visit the bird markets and investigate the problem. 

You can use our world map and follow the plane to Indonesia! 

Download our: World & South East Asia Maps

Play our bird market video and imagine you’ve just arrived at a bird market in JavaClose your eyes, what can you smell? What can you hear? What do you think it would be like to be a bird trapped in cage? 

Watch or listen to our: Indonesian Bird Market Video

After you have listened to the video, use your thoughts and feelings to write a poem from the view of a trapped songbird. 

Download our: Sing for Songbirds Writing Sheet 

Our Chester Zoo experts have joined you in Java to help raise awareness about the songbird crisis. To complete your research you’ll need to watch their video to find out more. 

Other suggestions… 

  • You could write a letter to a bird trapper or market trader asking them to stop taking the birds. 
  • You could make a leaflet about the illegal songbird trade 



There’s lots you can do to help these amazing songbirds; from raising awareness and fundraising to protecting UK songbird species! 

Creating art is a brilliant way to get people interested. Try creating your own South East Asian forest display with these beautiful origami birds. 

Download our: Origami bird collection 


Perhaps you want to make more people aware of the songbird crisis now you’ve learned about it.  We’ve got a poster you can put up to let everyone know about the Sing for Songbirds campaign 

Download our: Songbirds poster 

Our sing for songbirds song tells the story of the songbird crisis and some of the familiar songbirds species you’ve been looking at. Watch our video to learn the words!  

Watch our: Sing for Songbirds – Singalong Video 

There’s also lots you can do for UK songbird species too. Creating safe nesting spots is a great way to help. You could even try building your own nest box by following our easy guide. 

Download our: How to build a nest box collection 



Share your work with us on Twitter @LearnatCZ using #ToZooAtHome.

We’d love to see what you come up with!