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A Bless for Maluku: Parrots

“Cockatoo!” and “A guest!” are probably phrases commonly heard from a trained cockatoo, a member of the parrot family. Being trained means it’s a pet and taught to speak like humans do.

 “Kakatua! Kakatua! Ada tamu!” Itu mungkin sepenggal kalimat yang sering kita dengar dari seekor kakatua, sejenis burung paruh bengkok yang sudah terlatih.  Terlatih, artinya burung ini telah dipelihara oleh manusia dan diajar bertutur sapa selayaknya manusia.

Kakatua-putih-Irfan-Rosyadi-BI-600x446White cockatoo (photo: Burung Indonesia/Irfan Rosyadi)

Not all parrots can be trained to say hello like cockatoos. Despite his ability to learn greetings, do you know how many parrots there are in Indonesia?

Halmahera, Obi, Buru, Sula, Seram, Yamdena, Kai Besar and Kai Kecil, Aru, Wetar, and many other small islands are home to certain endemic parrot species, which are not found on other islands in the Maluku region. These endemic species have adapted to the dry and hot climate of Maluku so that they can survive.

Buru Island, which is located 75 km west of Seram Island, is classified as the island with the richest endemic parrots. This 8,500 km2 island is home to a trio of Buru's signature parrots, namely the Blue-fronted Lorikeet (Charmosyna toxopei), the Buru Racquet-tail (Prioniturus mada), and the Black-lored Parrot (Tanygnathus gramineus).

Then, there is the Tanimbar Archipelago which is home to the sweet duet of the Tanimbar Corella (Cacatua goffiniana) and the Blue-streaked Lory (Eos reticulata). The Sula Hanging-parrot (Loriculus sclateri), however, dares to pursue a solo venture in the Sula Archipelago.

The Rainbow is Fading

The rainbow-like colors of the parrots are admired by many, but admiration also wreaks havoc as parrots become the most frequently traded bird species nationally and internationally, causing the rainbow to fade. Despite the regulation issuance, law enforcement is still not fully operational.

Kakatua-putih-Burung-Indonesia-wmThe white cockatoo in the quarantine cage of the Natural Resource Conservation Office of Maluku, which was confiscated by the North Maluku Marine Police. (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Grace Ellen)

The regulations to protect the parrots were obviously ignored even though international regulations on bird trading (issued by CITES), government regulations regarding protected animals (PP No 7 of 1999 concerning the Preservation of Plant and Animal Species), and the status of endangered species established by the IUCN indicate that the parrot species is on the verge of extinction.

It is ironic that despite the Government’s effort through the issuance of regulation, the decline of parrot’s population in the wild is still going on. The Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea) is one of the species whose population is estimated to have plummeted to 80%, due to capturing and trading as pets. This condition drove the IUCN to determine the status of this bird as critical, and real conservation action is now essential to prevent them becoming extinct in nature.

If species with layers of protecting regulations are still being tailed by threats, the unprotected ones suffer the same fate, if not worse. Take the White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), which can only be found in the northern part of Maluku Islands, for an example.

Attracted by its pure-white plumage and crest, many people have been adopting this species as pets, both inside and outside the country. Not less than 6.600 individuals were exported in 1991. To even worsen the condition, aside from the continuing poaching, the agricultural land expansion and deforestation are depleting its habitat. The IUCN then declared a critical status on the White Cockatoo to remind us that real action is necessary to preserve their existence in the wild.

Eclectus-roratus-voamaeri_female-wmThe Eclectus Parrot (Photo: Burung Indonesia/Hanom Bashari)

Di Kepulauan Tanimbar, habitat burung ini diambil alih oleh manusia. Pohon pakan ditebang semena-mena, sementara hutan dibuka untuk perluasan desa dan perkebunan/pertanian rakyat. Jadilah kakatua tanimbar kehilangan rumah dan tempat mencari makan. Lalu, ke mana dia harus mengisi perutnya yang keroncongan? Terbang ke sana ke mari tanpa tahu mau hinggap di mana, tiba-tiba mata kakatua tanimbar tertuju pada ladang jagung yang menguning. Tanpa pikir panjang  ratusan kakatua tanimbar mendarat, dan ratusan tanaman jagung pun lunglai. Tentu saja pemilik ladang naik pitam. Hasilnya, kakatua ditangkap dan dicap sebagai hama. Siapa yang salah?


The story of the Tanimbar cockatoo illustrates the disturbed balance of the ecosystem. If only the place for foraging was still intact, could the bird forage on cornfield? As creatures who are given more abilities, humans should be able to maintain the harmonization of nature. There are many ways that can be done, for example by planting native trees as a place to sleep as well as a source of food for the birds.

The existing regulations are actually adequate. If the bird catchers obey, the birds will have the opportunity to breed so that their number in nature does not decrease drastically. However, it should also be balanced with the preservation of the bird's habitat, to guarantee shelters and food for them.

Lastly, harmonization of nature is achieved when humans recognize the rights of other creatures to live and share existing resources. The unique nature of Indonesia needs to be maintained because it’s a world heritage. It is our responsibility to pass it on to our children and grandchildren, just as our ancestors have passed it down to us. (William M. Rambang)


This publication is an archive series of Burung Magazine articles which were circulated in the period 2006-2011. Information regarding the status of birds has been updated with the actual conditions.