The IUCN SSC Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) was established to prevent the imminent extinction of songbirds threatened by unsustainable trapping and the trade in wild-caught passerines. In addition it seeks to address the impact of the trade and to find solutions through which the growing threat to an ever increasing number of songbird species can be reversed and improve the conservation status of all species involved.
Although there are various institutions working on songbird conservation issues, having a coordinated effort under this Specialist Group will create a synergy by bringing subject matter experts from different fields together for the common purpose of Asian songbird conservation. Given that the threats facing songbirds are multi-faceted and require a range of different yet coordinated strategies, this Specialist Group will facilitate this coordination.
THE TRADE THREAT TO SONGBIRDS
Southeast Asia is home to more than 850 bird species. Keeping songbirds is seen as a social status symbol, with demand also arising from cultural practices—such as religious releases and songbird competitions. As a result, the region sees huge demand for domestic and international bird trade, involving countless individuals of hundreds of species. Many of these are now facing catastrophic declines.
During the Songbird Trade Crisis Summit in 2015, a list of 28 taxa most threatened by trade were identified as of high conservation concern. These were further ranked, based on expert opinion and what is currently known of wild populations, population trends and levels, and types of threat. As a result, 12 taxa were identified as being of highest priority (Tier 1) and in need of immediate action, with the remaining 16 also being of high conservation concern but requiring further research before proceeding with taxon-specific action planning (Tier 2).