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Saving the Bali Starling

Another incredible tale of the struggle against extinction comes to us by way of the Begawan Foundation: In recent years, today’s Endangered All-Star, the Bali Starling (also known as Bali Myna or Rothschild’s Mynah) came fearfully close to joining the other endemic vertebrate lost on the Indonesian island, the Bali tiger, extinct since the 1930s. By 1990, there were only 5 birds left in the wild, and in 1999, a poaching gang stole most of the remaining captive individuals in Bali Barat National Park to sell to collectors. But that same year, in another example of extraordinary perseverance in the face of discouraging odds, a philanthropic couple, Debbie and Bradley Gardner—who established the Begawan Foundation to support educational programs, health clinics, and conservation projects on the island—took the Starling under their wing, transferring four captive-bred birds from England to Bali and reinvigorating a captive-breeding program there under the guidance of an avian veterinarian. By 2006, 97 captive birds had been prepared in specially-equipped cages for life in the wild, on a small island south of Bali. Equipped with microchips, 25 were part of the initial release, and within a matter of weeks, the first egg was laid. As of last year, 65 birds have been released, and they’ve been busy, hatching 62 surviving nestlings. Now, in collaboration with Germany’s Cologne Zoo, the Begawan Foundation is helping to shore up captive-breeding of Starlings at Jurong BirdPark on Bali itself, in the hopes of eventually restoring the population to its original home. Reminiscent of New Zealand’s struggles to save the Chatham Island Black Robin and other birds from the brink of annihilation (see iWild’s All-Star #73), the Begawan Foundation’s work should inspire everyone who yearns to make a difference. To support the Foundation’s Bali Starling Conservation Project, adopt a young Starling or a proven pair, bonded for life and bent on reproducing. Photo: Ray Tipper for ARKive iWild thanks Carolyn Kenwrick of the Begawan Foundation for bringing the story of the Bali Starling to our attention. Please feel free to contact us with other tales of approaching or averted extinctions for future postings.
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