Sharing knowledge to save Sumatran songbirds

Knowledge gained from caring for animals at Jersey Zoo aids other conservation organisations worldwide, helping to save species from extinction. Bird Keeper Sam Atherton visited North Sumatra in Indonesia to share husbandry practices and train staff, strengthening Durrell's work in Southeast Asia.  

Home to many of the world's most threatened species, Sumatra's tropical rainforests are incredibly biodiverse but are at risk from deforestation for logging and oil palm plantations. The illegal wildlife trade also threatens many of the island's species, including songbirds and orangutans.  


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Sam spent three weeks at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme's new facility, Orangutan Haven. A sanctuary for orangutans that cannot be released back into the wild, the Haven was created by former Jersey Zoo keeper Ian Singleton, who based the design on the zoo's orangutan islands.  

The Orangutan Haven also works with songbird species threatened by illegal trapping to be sold as pets or for singing competitions in bird markets. Sam helped to get their newly established bird department off the ground and trained staff in skills such as building nest boxes, safely holding birds, insect propagation, and aviary design. He also aided in writing protocols, identifying potential health problems, and making songbird diet sheets.  

While in Indonesia, Sam additionally spent time consulting with and advising EcosystemImpact, an organisation partly managed by Tom Amey, an alumnus of our DESMAN (Durrell Endangered Species Management Graduate Certificate) programme. The organisation works to address globally significant conservation issues in Sumatra, including wildlife poaching and industrial expansion of palm oil. They have aviaries for breeding Barusan Shama, one of the Indonesian bird markets' most heavily traded and highly priced birds.  

Another benefit of the trip is that Sam gained insight into the Orangutan Haven and EcosystemImpact's educational outreach and how both organisations raise awareness with local communities about conservation and the threats to native species.     

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