Smuggler Caught Stuffing Endangered Cockatoos in Plastic Bottles

Smuggler Caught Stuffing Endangered Cockatoos in Plastic BottlesSmuggler Caught Stuffing Endangered Cockatoos in Plastic Bottles

At least 21 cockatoos have been discovered stuffed into 1,500 ml plastic water bottles at an Indonesian port during an anti-smuggling operation.

The cockatoos, which are described as critically endangered, were cut free of their plastic confines by Indonesian customs officials at Tanjung Perak port in Surabaya, Indonesia, after they spotted the consignment of illegally-trafficked birds, CNN reported.

Harbor police caught a passenger disembarking with two birds packed in jerry cans. Police searched the boat and found 21 more birds, stuffed into water bottles and packed in travel bags.

“The birds were still alive then but some were already very weak,” said Lily Djafar, spokeswoman for the Tanjung Perak police.

It was not the first case of its kind, she said. In April, there were two cases of animal smuggling at the port and more than 200 rare and endangered animals, including birds of paradise, reptiles, sugar gliders -- known locally as tupai loncat -- and cockatoos were seized. In both cases, the suspects were boat crew members, Djafar said.

An official from Indonesia’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), told CNN that police turned over 22 birds to the organization, and that from his initial inspection the animals were two species of cockatoo. Seven of the birds handed over later died.

Richard Thomas, Global Communications Co-ordinator at Traffic International, which monitors illegal wildlife trade, told CNN that the reported trafficking of them in plastic bottles “shows the lengths that some people will go to try to smuggle birds.”

The bird is one that is “very heavily impacted” by illegal trade, he said. While the species is endemic to Indonesia, it’s disappeared from much of its range and now the only substantial population is found on the island of Komodo, with smaller populations on some other islands.

Yellow-crested cockatoos, which were among the birds seized, were classed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 2007.

The species, Cacatua sulphurea, has “suffered (and may continue to suffer) an extremely rapid population decline, owing to unsustainable trapping for the cagebird trade,” according to Bird Life, an online reference for ornithologists. It is thought that their population in the wild numbers around 7,000 and is in danger of further deescalation.