A species of magpie commonly known in Malaysia as murai kampung may face extinction due to rampant trapping and smuggling activities if nothing is done to protect them.This according to a new report published jointly by an NGO and the country's wildlife authority, titled 'Smuggled for its Song: The Trade in Malaysia’s Oriental Magpie-robins'.It said that in the five years between 2015 and 2020, the authorities had intercepted a total of 26,950 of the birds in 44 trafficking incidents that implicated Malaysia.Of this, 66 percent were smuggled last year alone. The research also showed that 17,134 of them, or 64 percent, were being trafficked from Malaysia to Indonesia."The Oriental Magpie-robin Copsychus saularis is common in the wild in Malaysia and other range states."Yet, worryingly, large numbers are being intercepted in seizures with at least 26,950 of the birds confiscated in just 44 incidents that implicated Malaysia from January 2015 to December 2020," said a press statement.The statement was issued by NGO Traffic and the Wildlife and National Parks of Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) in conjunction with their report launched today.Traffic works globally to prevent illegal trade in wild animals and plants. Among its missions is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to nature conservation efforts.The organisations called for improved legal protections for the bird.Sought after as pets for their trillingIt said that the magpie is not uniformly protected in Malaysia and only listed as a protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 while there was no such protection in other states in the peninsula or in Sarawak.According to Perhilitan director-general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, the Oriental Magpie-robin is being targeted to feed demand as pets from neighbouring countries, particularly Indonesia."This points to Malaysian populations of the Oriental Magpie-robin being targeted to feed demand in neighbouring countries, particularly Indonesia. It also indicates an escalation in international trafficking in recent years to feed the persistent demand for the pet trade,” he said. Besides being a target for smuggling, Traffic said that it also found the bird facing high demand within Malaysia.Trade assessments of online marketplaces done by the NGO found that the Oriental Magpie-robin is one of the top species recorded for sale. Dead birds after a seizure by Perhiltan"History has shown that when sought-after species are not properly regulated, wild populations can be depleted quickly. Take, for instance, the once common Straw-headed Bulbul which has now vanished from much of its range because of trade,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, the director for Traffic in Southeast Asia.Serene Chng, programme officer for Traffic, called for the government to list the bird as a protected species in the peninsula and Sarawak."Listing this species as protected across the three laws is the first step to improved monitoring and regulation of the trade through a licensing system. "That way, its legal status and management is harmonised across the country, and will allow for more informed decisions to guide future efforts," she said.
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