Don’t buy songbirds as pets

Disappearing: The straw-headed bulbul is becoming extinct in the wild. — CHAN AH LAK/Malaysian Nature Society

IT’S sad to read that the Malaysian Oriental magpie-robin – commonly known as murai kampung – is being illegally poached. I love to listen to these magnificent birds’ singing voices. I have even shared their songs with my children.

“In two rapid assessment surveys of all wildlife pet trade on a popular local e-commerce site, the Oriental magpie-robin was the second- most numerous animal recorded in 2018 and 2020”, according to the story “Huge numbers of murai kampung being trapped and smuggled out” in The Star yesterday (online at

This illegal trade in songbirds must be stopped. While Malaysian authorities have done splendid work in intercepting smugglers, they must also educate the public about this damaging trade. If people keep supporting poachers, if they keep creating a demand for these birds by buying them, one day we will only be able to see these birds on our screens.

It has been reported that the straw-headed bulbul (burung barau-barau) has vanished from many places in the wild and is critically endangered (“5 popular songbirds that are trapped in Malaysia for the songbird trade”, Star-Lifestyle, Feb 16; online at

NGOs and wildlife authorities of Malaysia must join forces with Singaporean and Indonesian agencies to prevent this crime. Not only do authorities have to catch poachers on the ground but they must also hunt sellers online and on social media.

The Internet has made it easy for poachers to meet the huge demand for these birds in Indonesia. They can easily post about birds for sale on Facebook or in texting groups. Currently, you can see how so many people online are interested in keeping parrots as pets, especially macaws which are an endangered species.

Knowledge of these songbirds must be conveyed to our children. Schools can organise talks by NGOS such as WWF-Malaysia and the Malaysian Nature Society. Govern-ment agencies can hold exhibitions of information and artworks featuring the birds on their premises.

I have participated in (bird spotting event) Raptor Watch Malaysia, which usually falls in the month of March and takes place at Tanjong Tuan in Port Dickson, Negri Sem-bilan. Watching beautiful birds of prey during their migratory flight over Tanjung Tuan is a wonderful moment for all nature lovers – and could also help the public come to love all birds, including songbirds.


Rawang, Selangor

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