SINGAPORE – While Singapore’s forests provide refuge for up to about a third of the world’s straw-headed bulbuls, the globally critically endangered species prized for its singing has increasingly been driven to the brink of extinction.
The songbird is one of two native species for which the National Parks Board (NParks) will propose stronger international protection at the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) conference of parties in Panama, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said in a Facebook post on Friday.
Along with Malaysia and the United States, representatives from Singapore will recommend for the straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) to be listed under Cites as a species threatened with extinction. Plants and animals in this category – Appendix I – can only be traded in exceptional circumstances.
Currently, the straw-headed bulbul is listed under Appendix II, which covers wildlife that are strictly controlled to ensure their survival.
Singapore and Malaysia will also propose that the white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus) – which is not protected under the convention – to be listed under Appendix II.
While the white-rumped shama has thrived on Pulau Ubin and in natureparks on mainland Singapore, they are highly trafficked worldwide. More than 32,000 such birds have been seized from illegal trade since 2009.
“This could mean further protection for the two songbird species, which have been heavily traded as pets and for singing contests that are popular in South-east Asia,” said Mr Lee.
At the meeting that will run from Nov 14 to Nov 25, parties will propose to remove or include additional species under the convention’s rules. If views differ, the proposal will be put to a vote. It will be adopted if at least two-thirds of the attendees vote for it.
The two proposals for greater protection come on the back of the latest update to the bird list for the third edition of the Singapore Red Data Book – the island’s guide to the national conservation status of species here – in September.
It records that 24 bird species are now less threatened than last assessed in 2008 and another five have been deemed as of greater conservation concern.