Understanding consumer preferences and demography in order to reduce the domestic trade in wild-caught birds

Zuzana Burivalova, Tien Ming Lee, Fangyuan Hua, Janice S.H. Lee, Dewi M. Prawiradilaga, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The wildlife trade is now one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and birds are among the most commonly traded groups worldwide. The demand for pet birds is especially high in Indonesia, a country with many exploited, imperiled bird species. Finding solutions to the threat that trade poses for birds, and wildlife in general, requires an understanding of its socioeconomic dimensions. We examined consumer demography and preferences of 762 bird owners in Medan, Sumatra, focusing on the differences among owners of birds taken from the wild versus birds bred in captivity. We found that the vast majority of bird owners have at least one wild-caught bird. However, wild-caught bird ownership is not uniformly distributed across Medan; rather, there are distinct hotspots with high proportions of people with wild-caught birds. The main reasons for owning wild-caught birds are lack of access to and the high cost of captive-bred birds, and a perception that captive-bred birds do not sing as well as wild-caught ones. We conclude that captive-breeding programs could reduce the pressure on wild populations, especially if suppliers are able to produce relatively cheap captive-bred birds. However, the perceived poorer song quality of captive-bred individuals might be a problem for the captive breeding of some species, notably the White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus. Since many owners of this species compete in bird song competitions, establishing competition categories specifically for captive-bred shamas could promote captive-bred bird ownership. Tackling the problem of the wild bird trade in Indonesia and elsewhere will require consideration of both the economic and the social factors that underlie pet ownership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-431
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - May 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


  • Bird market
  • Captive-bred alternative
  • Hunting
  • Indonesia
  • Market-based conservation intervention
  • Pet birds
  • Song competition
  • Wildlife trade


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