19 October 2016

Following on from the news we shared earlier this month about four Javan green magpies hatching at the zoo for the first time, we’re really pleased to share some more songbird news with you…

Our keepers caught the Sumatran laughingthrush chick’s first flight on a special nest camera after their attempts to breed the rare species proved successful. This is great news for the species as – like the Javan green magpie – it’s facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

These birds with their beautiful song are in rapid decline. The main threat to the species is the illegal trade and trapping for the caged bird trade which is a big problem across Indonesia.

Sumatran laughing thrush in small cage on a market

Sumatran laughingthrush in a tiny cage on a bird market in Indonesia.

Andrew Owen, Chester Zoo’s curator of birds, tells us more:

In the wild the Sumatran laughingthrush is disappearing at an alarming rate as it has become victim to a shrinking habitat and the unrelenting demand for the caged bird trade.

Andrew Owen, curator of birds at Chester Zoo

“Caged birds, the vast majority of which have been harvested from the wild, can be seen just about everywhere in Indonesia – hanging outside houses, shops, restaurants, petrol stations, you name it. Most of them are kept in terrible conditions and are seen as something beautiful to admire for a couple of days until they wither away and die. As the species becomes rarer and rarer its value increases, which is beginning to push it to the edge of extinction. The sad reality is that while market places are full of the sounds of caged birds, the forests are almost silent.

Sumatran laughing thrush walking on ground

“The Sumatran laughingthrush is very, very rare and to see the chick take flight for the first time on camera is incredibly special. I’ve been working with the species for 12 years and haven’t been lucky enough to witness one of these birds fledge and leave the nest before – it’s really charming footage.

Our new chick and the four other chicks we have reared this year are ever so important to the conservation breeding programme for the species, which is working to ensure a protected population for the future.

Andrew Owen, curator of birds at Chester Zoo

We’re also working closely with our partners at the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Java, where we’ve set up a specialist breeding centre to boost population numbers and help rescue birds from local markets. The long-term aim is to release birds into safe wild areas.

Chester Zoo is also part of a conservation breeding programme which is striving to create further safety-net populations of the species in Europe. There are currently only 70 Sumatran laughingthrushes in the European breeding programme.

IndonesianSongbirds (3)
Singing for songbirds

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