Jon Afrizal, Jambi – Dozens of bird species endemic to Sumatra Island are closer to extinction because of habitat loss from land use change as well as illegal hunting.
According to bird conservation NGO Burung Indonesia, 42 bird species have been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Meanwhile, nine species are listed as critically endangered.
"Most of the species in the critically endangered category are losing their habitat [and are] illegally hunted," Burung Indonesia spokesman Achmad Ridha Junaid said on Tuesday.
For example, cucak rawa (straw-headed bulbuls) were often hunted to be sold as pets, despite their limited number remaining in the wild, Achmad went on to say. The IUCN red list in August 2018 estimated the number of cucak rawa in the wild at 600 to 1,700.
Some experts believe the species is extinct by now.
Similarly, the rangkong gading (helmeted hornbill) is often hunted for its bright red and yellow solid casque. The species has been included in the critically endangered category.
Achmad said the rangkong gading had been considered vulnerable until 2015, but its status had been increased to critically endangered ever since, because of rampant hunting.
"Such a case, in which a bird species jumps by two [categories on the endangered species] lists in a very short time is very rare," he said. "It is regrettable that we have little to no information on the exact helmeted hornbill population in Sumatra, as that would require a large-scale field study."
Changes in forest cover across Sumatra have contributed to the vulnerability of these bird species. According to environmental group Warsi Indonesian Conservation Community (KKI Warsi), the total forest cover on the island was around 11 million hectares in 2015 – down vastly from 20 million ha in 1990.
"Meanwhile, the areas of plantations as well as industrial forest have increased by 141 and 381 percent, respectively," KKI Warsi director Rudi Syaf said.
He added that Sumatra was predicted to lose another 9 million ha of forest cover within 25 years if no action was taken to preserve the forest. (dpk)