Experts warn of “biosecurity risk” in bali’s bustling poultry market Wildlife news

Denpasar, Bali – Endangered wildlife is on sale at the market, just a 30-minute drive from the Bali Convention Center, where US President Joe Biden and other world leaders will meet to discuss pandemic recovery strategies at the Bali summit. the G20 summit later this year.

The current inventory offered by the various outlets on the market includes meter-long iguanas – kept in cages with one-third the size of their captives among dead rodents on the floor – porcupines, pythons from the remote province of Papua in Indonesia, swivel lizards, civets, large -Eye owls with clipped wings, parrots and critically endangered Balinese starlings.

One store showed a dirty water bath containing three African turtles, the third largest in the world, which comes from the southern end of the Sahara Desert and is prone to respiratory infections when kept in a humid environment such as Bali.

Located in two city blocks, Bali’s bird market is part of the size of Pasar Burung Pramuka in Jakarta, the largest bird market in Southeast Asia, and Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, where COVID- 19 appeared after him. transferred from bats, probably to another species, before infecting humans.

But wherever wildlife and humans congregate, experts say there is a health risk.

“I’ve been to the wet markets in China and you’ll never see so many animals and people in one area around the world, so many of the new diseases have been identified for the first time in China today,” said Gusti Mahardika of Udayana University. -the oldest virologist on the island.

“But you don’t have to have a very large collection of animals in one place for a new pathogen to appear. It only takes one event for the virus to cross the species barrier, whether directly from a wild animal to humans or by jumping through other species. The bird market provides the perfect ecosystem for that. ”

Birds packed next to each other on wooden perches and in plastic containers in a small cage Hundreds of munis with scaly breasts are kept in crowded cages while waiting for buyers. Songbirds are popular with Indonesians, but there is little way to know if they have been bred commercially or caught in the wild. [Al Jazeera]

Part of an extensive national network of open-air animal markets serving Indonesia’s thriving pet trade, the bird market is popular with locals looking for pets such as rabbits, roosters, pedigree dogs, cats and songbirds.

About a third of Indonesian households on the main island of Java raise commercially bred and / or wild-caught songbirds, according to a 2019 study from Manchester Metropolitan University and the Chester Zoo, published in the scientific journal Biological Conversation.

In Indonesia, there is no consumer mechanism, such as labeling or accreditation, to help buyers understand whether birds are being bred commercially or caught in the wild. The wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC International says this explains why Indonesia led its recent survey of the world’s largest number of endangered bird species. Legal and illegal wildlife trade in the country are both sides of the same coin.

In recent years, the Indonesian government has introduced legislation, such as the Animal, Fish and Plant Quarantine Act, which provides for new severe penalties, including years in prison and huge fines, to oppose trade.

In 2019, a Balinese court detained a Russian citizen for 12 months under the law for attempting to carry a smuggled baby orangutan in a suitcase through Bali International Airport.

In 2020, a Sumatra court sentenced the head of a wildlife trade union to four years in prison and imposed an unprecedented fine of 1 billion rupees ($ 70,000) for possession of a leopard, four lion cubs and 58 turtles.

In January last year, 11,559 birds, including 17 endangered species, were captured in kennels and markets in nine different provinces in the country.

“These confiscations are important to stop illegally harvested birds from reaching the markets,” Serene Chng, then Southeast Asia’s program officer, told TRAFFIC. “But to deal with this properly, Indonesia must place equal emphasis on freeing the poultry markets from illegal trade and reducing the demand that drives trade.

Money transfer

The G20 summit is expected to be part of efforts to encourage the return of international tourism to Bali and revive the island’s economy. More than 6.2 million foreigners flew at Bali International Airport in 2019. Last year, there were only 45.

A fluffy white dog gets patted on the head when released from its cageMany people visit the bird market in Bali to buy pets such as dogs and cats [Al Jazeera]

Despite the threat posed by the bird market to the island’s biosecurity and image, the Bali Tourism Directorate indirectly encourages it by accrediting travel companies that include the bird market as a stop on their city tours.

“When I made a statement about the risk of biosecurity in the market, the only reaction was that the owners of the stands came to my house to protest,” said Gusti Mahardika of Udayana.

“I have complained about this to the livestock department many times about the risk of disease, but they say it is not livestock, they are not responsible. They only show concern when the disease affects chickens and pigs, “said Bayu Virayuda, founder of the Friends of National Parks Foundation, a local NGO credited with bringing back the Balinese starling, an endemic songbird back from the brink of extinction. set up several refuges in different parts of the island.

Wirayudha says bureaucracy sometimes even hinders conservation efforts. “When we have to bring starlings from West Java, they really make it difficult for us to get permission. It takes us so long to get quarantine approval, but smugglers don’t have to worry about that. For them, moving birds around the country is easy, “he said.

The Bali’s Office of Animal Husbandry and Animal Health, or the Department of Animal Husbandry, says wildlife is not under its jurisdiction and refers Al Jazeera to the Bali Center for Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages protected flora and fauna in Bali. Bali.

Agus Budi Santos, director of the BKSDA, said that “the species traded on the market are unprotected species that cannot be covered by our ministry.”

Femke Den Haas, a Dutch veterinarian who has been working to protect wildlife in Indonesia for 20 years, says the answer is typical of Indonesia’s bloated bureaucracy.

“There were monkeys on the market in short chains. “I’ve been complaining for years, but the wildlife department said they can’t do anything about it because they’re not an endangered species,” she said.

“So we got the quarantine authorities, because monkeys are usually smuggled in from Java and can carry rabies. Last week, they gathered forestry and livestock workers and went to the market to rescue all the monkeys.

“When all the relevant government departments come together in Indonesia, they can achieve really good results,” she said.

Dead birds lie on the ground at the Bali bird marketMany of the shops are dirty and unhygienic. Experts are worried about the risk of disease [Al Jazeera]

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