Measuring the impact of the pet trade on Indonesian birds

J. Berton C. Harris*, Morgan W. Tingley, Fangyuan Hua, Ding Li Yong, J. Marion Adeney, Tien Ming Lee, William Marthy, Dewi M. Prawiradilaga, Cagan H. Sekercioglu, Cagan H. Suyadi, Nurul Winarni, David S. Wilcove

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    110 Citations (Scopus)


    The trade in wild animals involves one-third of the world's bird species and thousands of other vertebrate species. Although a few species are imperiled as a result of the wildlife trade, the lack of field studies makes it difficult to gauge how serious a threat it is to biodiversity. We used data on changes in bird abundances across space and time and information from trapper interviews to evaluate the effects of trapping wild birds for the pet trade in Sumatra, Indonesia. To analyze changes in bird abundance over time, we used data gathered over 14 years of repeated bird surveys in a 900-ha forest in southern Sumatra. In northern Sumatra, we surveyed birds along a gradient of trapping accessibility, from the edge of roads to 5 km into the forest interior. We interviewed 49 bird trappers in northern Sumatra to learn which species they targeted and how far they went into the forest to trap. We used prices from Sumatran bird markets as a proxy for demand and, therefore, trapping pressure. Market price was a significant predictor of species declines over time in southern Sumatra (e.g., given a market price increase of approximately $50, the log change in abundance per year decreased by 0.06 on average). This result indicates a link between the market-based pet trade and community-wide species declines. In northern Sumatra, price and change in abundance were not related to remoteness (distance from the nearest road). However, based on our field surveys, high-value species were rare or absent across this region. The median maximum distance trappers went into the forest each day was 5.0 km. This suggests that trapping has depleted bird populations across our remoteness gradient. We found that less than half of Sumatra's remaining forests are >5 km from a major road. Our results suggest that trapping for the pet trade threatens birds in Sumatra. Given the popularity of pet birds across Southeast Asia, additional studies are urgently needed to determine the extent and magnitude of the threat posed by the pet trade.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)394-405
    Number of pages12
    JournalConservation Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


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