Date
23 October 2018
Hong Kong can help in boosting the numbers of an endangered parrot species by sending the birds back to their native regions in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, say two scholars. Photos: Timothy Bonebrake, Facebook/HK Bird Watching Society
Hong Kong can help in boosting the numbers of an endangered parrot species by sending the birds back to their native regions in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, say two scholars. Photos: Timothy Bonebrake, Facebook/HK Bird Watching Society

HK urged to focus on endangered foreign parrot species

A parrot species that is a native of Indonesia and Timor-Leste and is facing threat of extinction can be found now in Hong Kong as a result of poaching and trade, according to two scholars.

Given the situation, Hong Kong should take an initiative to help grow their number by sending the birds back to where they originated, the scholars said. 

In a paper published in the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment journal, Luke Gibson of the University of Hong Kong and Yong Ding-Li of the Australian National University said a study conducted by them showed that 49 endangered species, including birds, mammals, and reptiles, can be found in places other than their origins.

Among them is Cacatua Sulphurea, a type of parrots known as yellow-crested cockatoos, the scholars wrote, according to the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

A popular pet that has been suffering intense poaching, the cockatoos are categorized as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

There are currently about 200 such cockatoos living in Hong Kong, accounting for 10 percent of their total globally, according to the research paper.

Pok Fu Lam and Happy Valley are said to be the birds’ major habitats here. 

Gibson and Yong suspect the cockatoos had been brought from their origins and sold as pets in the city. Some birds escaped or were released by their owners, which led to the parrots growing into a self-sustaining population in the city’s woodlands

Against this backdrop, Hong Kong can now play an important role in preserving this endangered species, says Yong.

It can be done by catching the birds and having them taken to Indonesia and Timor-Leste and releasing them again in their natural origins, the scholars suggested.

Such effort can help alleviate the ecological imbalance caused by poaching in those regions, and also reduce the threat to Hong Kong’s ecology from the foreign species, which tend to compete with native birds for nesting sites and food.

That said, Gibson said the work can wait until Indonesia and Timor-Leste step up their law enforcement to combat poaching.

A parrot trader, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that none of the yellow-crested cockatoos currently being sold in Hong Kong are wild birds.

The ones being sold have come from artificial propagation, he said, adding that the birds would cost as much as HK$50,000 each.

Responding to a query from HKEJ, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said yellow-crested cockatoos are protected by the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance.

Anyone who imports or exports the birds without a permit can face up to HK$5 million in fine and two years in jail, the department said.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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