In the past decade wildlife trafficking – the extraction and illegal harvesting of protected species to satisfy the wildlife trade – has soared across the globe. It is now considered a major threat to national security and the ivory trade has been linked to funding terrorism in conflict nations. It is estimated that in 2009 in the EU alone, the wildlife trade was worth 100 billion euros, a 7 billion euro increase from the previous estimate in 2005. In the past few years, as the negative impacts of the trade have been related to human rights violations, national security, and environmental degradation, many nations around the globe have made commitments to addressing this issue.
Asia is often seen as the center for wildlife trafficking with strong demand in countries such as China, Japan, Vietnam, while countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar supply the trade. Furthermore, poor law enforcement and legislation at a trans-national and national level has allowed for the trade and trafficking of wildlife to explode.
"We have proven, that collaboration is possible" - Planet Indonesia
Planet Indonesia began working with this issue from the first day we opened our doors. True to our model, we focus on-the-ground, working with trappers, traders, and poachers to not only understand the motivations but also to provide incentives and cover the opportunity costs for engaging in new business and adopting sustainable resource management strategies.
"It is clear... the loss and extinction of Indonesian birds will negatively impact us all" - wildlife trader
In 2016, we sat down as a team and made a decision. We wanted to be the first Conservation Organization…to host a conservation workshop… where all the members were wildlife trappers and traders.
As with most of our ideas at Planet Indonesia, this was new, daring, and, was going to be tough. But our team believed we could do it.
Planet Indonesia’s wildlife trade work has expanded considerably in the last few years, but our work has been centered on little known species that are negatively impacted by the trade.
Generally, when one hears trade people think tigers, elephants, lions, and rhinos. But actually, most of the heavily traded species in the world are far less iconic species.
In Indonesia, estimates of the live songbird bird trade are now at well over 1 million birds a year, and this is just within the country. These estimates and figures don’t include cross-border trade to satisfy the demand or individuals that die in transit or markets.
Planet Indonesia is one of the only organizations in-country working on this issue, and the only group in West Borneo to address the wild bird trade.
On February 11&12 we successfully gathered together over 45 birds poachers, traders, and hobbyists to talk about solutions to the trade. The difficult weeks before the conference trying to reach our goal of 40 participants quickly paid off.
"We are angry our birds are being to other locations, being taken from our forests, and being sold off the island. This is our resource, not other people's." - local trapper
The workshop started off with a bird hobbyist explaining his frustrations.
It was clear, that even though everyone’s backgrounds and objectives were different, some wanted to own birds as pets, others wanted to trap wild birds to breed them, others simply liked owning birds, while others exclaimed they trapped birds just to pay the basic costs of living, there was one unanimous point of agreement.
The loss and extinction of Indonesian birds would negatively impact us all.
It was this point that Planet Indonesia and the participants joined hands, and it was the point that caused a group that other NGOS and local government said would never come to our workshop, to sit side-by-side and talk about solutions.
As a result of the workshop Planet Indonesia will now hold similar “awareness building” workshops with the support of these participants in 9 districts targeting another 900 trappers.
These new programs were designed with the participants and will be focused on increasing awareness about which species are allowed to be traded and which are not. However, these events, throughout 9 districts, will be organized by traders, for traders, run by traders. True to the Planet Indonesia model we will be there as facilitators and helping to empower these participants to implement these community hearings.
It was clear from the workshop there was frustration. Frustration that these individuals had never been told by the government that trapping birds was illegal, frustrated the government didn’t set quotas on birds leaving Borneo to be sold on other islands, and frustrations that low-income trappers had no alternative sources of income and support.
We are motivated, and we are excited to continue working with these 45 individuals. In fact, these 45 individuals will act as our eyes and ears in their various communities and they will help us set up the additional community outreach events in the 9 districts of West Borneo.
We have proven, that collaboration is possible, celebrating our similarities is far more effective than underlining our differences, and that together, we can both empower communities and save wildlife.