27/06/2014
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Jane Goodall visits Bali Myna conservation project to release birds

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Dr Goodall (centre) and graduate student Alicia Kennedy (left) release two Bali Mynas as part of the blessing ceremony. Photo: Begawan Foundation.
Dr Goodall (centre) and graduate student Alicia Kennedy (left) release two Bali Mynas as part of the blessing ceremony. Photo: Begawan Foundation.
British primatologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall visited Bali, Indonesia, for the first time as a guest of honour to see the Bali Myna breeding facilities and participate in the release programme.

Last week, Dr Goodall, famous for her life-long study of Chimpanzees in Tanzania and a UN Messenger of Peace, visited the Begawan Foundation’s Breeding and Release Centre to discuss the Bali Starling (aka Bali Myna) program with the foundation staff. During her visit to the site, three 2nd grade students from Green School, Sibang, shared their experience of working with the non-profit charity, at their graduation ceremony. They, and other young students, help prepare food and previously built a nest box from bamboo for the birds.

Dr Goodall's visit continued with a private tour by the Foundation's Breeding and Release Manager, Mehd Halaouate, who outlined the programme's achievements and methods for her. She recognised the importance of saving the endemic and Critically Endangered species. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Goodall said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. She added: "Working to save the species and the environment is tough. We really need to work with local communities to make this happen, we need to inform people by touching their hearts, not preaching at them. Sometimes we go against a plan of development or big industry. We must be prepared to face tough obstacles but we should never give up.

“We have to believe in what we do and that our cause us worth fighting for, and that will give us the energy necessary to keep going."

Her advice was to make as many links as possible with people who work with the same species in order to make the programme stronger. She also stressed the importance of involving children, the younger the better, through her own Roots and Shoots Programme.  She mentioned that children might be confused, but they are the ones who will change their parents' minds. She felt that it is also important to adapt the programme to local situations, as it is not a package in a box.

Later the next afternoon, following a blessing ceremony conducted by a local priest, two Bali Starlings were released by Dr Goodall and one of the graduate students, Alicia Kennedy, as part of an ongoing programme to repopulate the central mainland of Bali with a myna flock. The birds were raised at the foundation's centre is Sibang by the keepers and a resident veterinarian. There is a further release planned for October.

Though around 1,000 Bali Mynas are estimated to be held in captivity legally around the world, the wild population dropped to just a few hundred after poaching for the cagebird trade. The Begawan Foundation  has about 97 birds, and released 65 Bali Mynas back into the wild during 2005-06, with further successful releases since.

Mehd Halaouate said: “We expect these two birds will rapidly join those already flying free in Sibang. Four Bali Mynas released in April this year have already paired up with those released in 2012 and are actively building nests. This is a vital step towards achieving our goal for a sustainable flock on mainland Bali, so that people can see our country's mascot with ease."
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