Begawan Foundation, a Bali-based NGO, is linking bird conservation with a local community that tourists can visit.
Despite recent horror stories about animals in captivity and the many venues that offer ‘selfie’ experiences with animals and elephant rides, the picture for Bali’s wildlife tourism industry is not entirely bleak.
For almost twenty years, the Bali-based NGO Begawan Foundation has been working to bring the critically endangered Bali Starling back from the brink of extinction.
In particular, its Bali Starling Conservation project is putting effort into creating a responsible venue for tourists that offers “ethical experiences”, currently working together with a local community in Melinggih Kelod village, Ubud, to breed the birds for release.
The soft releases give the offspring the chance to reproduce in the wild, creating a wild flock of starlings protected by the community, with the aim that a program of ecotourism can be developed to provide some income for the village. Tourists can visit the village to view the birds in their natural habitat.
Pairs of these critically endangered birds are highly sought after by collectors and are prized on the black market. Such poaching from the wild is the biggest threat to the Bali Starlings’ future existence.
Between 1999 and 2005, the foundation’s captive population grew from four birds to 97, and from 2005 to 2012, around 80 were released into the wild. But attempts at establishing free-flying populations have failed, as released birds have also been trapped.
This has led to the foundation deciding to work closely with local communities.
The foundation now hopes that tourists can visit Melinggih Kelod village to view Bali Starlings in their natural habitat, in turn “supporting a local Balinese village that offers an ethical experience, where a community-led program for wildlife conservation is implemented,” the foundation says.
The foundation’s breeding and release centre is now based in Banjar Begawan, one of the districts in the village, and is open to breeders as well as the public.