16 Jul 2015

The centre works tirelessly to breed critically endangered birds to be reintroduced back into the wild at safe habitat sites.

Matt took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us.

Matt Speed, ex-intern at Chester Zoo

How did you come to be at the CCBC?
“After my internship at Chester Zoo I was offered the chance to stay at the zoo as a bird keeper on a short contract. The contract was coming to a close and Andrew Owen, curator of birds, offered me the chance to come to Indonesia to work at CCBC. Obviously the chance to gain more experience working with critically endangered birds in Indonesia was an opportunity too good to turn down.

Could you give us with an insight into what a typical day for you is like at CCBC?
“The day usually starts at 7am, unless there are young chicks then 6.30am – the young chicks need to have food available as early as possible. From 7am the birds that I am taking care of that day are fed and given fresh water to drink and have their water baths cleaned and refilled.

“Then I usually prepare crickets and the prey food for the Javan green magpies. We have been breeding crickets as a food source for the birds, so I will also feed these too. If there is time left in the morning then we will do any jobs that need to be done such as cage maintenance, collecting nesting material, building nests, etc.

“The afternoon starts with feeding the Javan green magpies with a mouse or a lizard with the rest of the afternoon usually being for big jobs where the other bird keepers, Ajle and Asep, and I are needed.

What have been your highlights so far?
“Working with the Javan green magpie has been a big highlight for me as they are my favourites here at the centre. I have been doing a small project on how they get the green colour in their feathers and so I have been learning a lot about them.

Javan green magpie, credit Matt Speed
Javan green magpie. Credit: Matt Speed

What challenges have you had to face whilst being there?
“I have definitely become better at fixing things! At Chester if there is a big job we would usually hand it over to the maintenance department. Here however we do all of the maintenance ourselves. Working with people who don’t speak English can be challenging at times; trying to make ourselves understood to one another can sometimes be hard so I’ve had to learn some Indonesian words that help. We are beginning to focus on getting the Rufous-fronted laughingthrushes, another endangered species, to breed so that will be the biggest challenge from now until I leave.

How has Chester Zoo’s involvement helped the project?
“The financial support helps to feed the birds and has also meant that a fence could be built around the centre to protect the birds from being stolen. Constant contact with Andrew and Javier (veterinary manager at Chester Zoo) has meant that we receive advice and support if, for instance, we have a sick bird about what the best course of action is to take.

Matt Speed receiving husbandry advice and demos from Javier
Matt receiving husbandry advice and demonstrations from Javier

Other than breeding and reintroduction, are there any other activities happening to conserve these birds?
“There are projects that exist to raise awareness and educate local people about the decline of songbirds. At the release site where Cikananga releases the black winged starling, there is a field team who, apart from monitoring the birds after they are released, talk to local people and schools. They help the local people to understand the importance of protecting the local songbirds and why catching the birds and keeping them in small cages is bad for the birds and bad for the species.”

I am Matt Speed and I Act for Wildlife